Benefits of Mindfulness
These 7 fun mindfulness activities for the outdoors are perfect to bring along to your next adventure in nature. They don’t have to be long and even a few short minutes can help you continue to train your mindful skills and translate to the approach you bring to your everyday life. Whether you are sitting in a park, out on your porch, or completing an epic hike, these exercises can help you reap the benefits of nourishing both your body and mind.
Mindfulness as a practice has been shown to have tremendous benefits for physical and mental health. The benefits of engaging in mindfulness include lowered stress and anxiety, improved immune function, increased attention and creativity, and cognitive flexibility.
In addition, spending time in nature is also linked to excellent benefits including lower stress levels, improved sleep, increased happiness, and a stronger sense of connection to the world around you.
7 Fun Mindfulness Activities Perfect For The Outdoors
1. Mindful Walking
Mindful walking is a fun mindfulness activity that can be a great option whether you are out for a stroll in your neighborhood or out hiking on a trail. This is a great way to break free of the sitting mindfulness practice that can sometimes feel restrictive.
Mindful walking is a great way to focus on your awareness and allow you to focus your attention on your present moment experience, rather than the many distractions of the typical day. There are a few ways you can bring a mindful practice while enjoying a walk in nature:
- Focus on how many steps you take. Perhaps counting them as you go to simply focus on walking.
- Focus on how your body moves and feels with each step you take. How do your knees bend and straighten? How do your muscles feel?
- You could also take the opportunity to engage your senses with whatever you may be experiencing around you. Perhaps you notice the sounds of birds chirping or focus on how the wind feels against your face.
Mindful walking is a wonderful way to take a few moments away from the distractions of the world to just be where your feet are. If you notice your mind getting distracted, that is normal. Simply gently bring your attention back to some aspect of your walk that you want to focus on, with kindness. Be sure you are in a safe space and stay aware of your surroundings – your safety is key!
2. Mindful Eating
I don’t know about you, but whenever we are headed out for a hike, we are always sure to have snacks on hand! Taking a break for a snack or having a picnic outside are great opportunities for a short mindful eating exercise. Here is an example of what this can look like:
- Choose 1 item of food that you have with you to focus on for a few moments
- Hold it in your fingers and take a few moments to really look at it. How does it look? Give it your full attention and notice as much detail about it as you can. Is it smooth or bumpy? Is the sun shining off pieces of it? What about its color?
- Next, take a few moments to experience how it feels. Let your fingers explore it, noticing any distinctions. Imagine you want to describe this in as much detail as you can to someone who has never been exposed to this food item before and will only be able to hear your description to understand.
- Move the food up to your nose. Breathe deeply, what do you notice about how it smells and the aroma it gives off? Does the smell trigger any response in your body?
- Take a bite and notice how it feels to chew this item. How does your mouth move? What do you notice about how it tastes or what happens when you place this into your mouth? Are any emotions coming up?
Mindful eating is a great way to gain a greater appreciation for your food. It allows you to be fully present in your eating experience and immersed in all that comes with it. You can do this practice one time with one item of food or try it for longer. Do what feels best for you!
3. Body Scan
A body scan is a great mindful activity for the outdoors as it can be done easily anywhere. It lets you really get in touch with how your body feels and turn your focus inward. For this, you might want to take a pause somewhere you feel comfortable.
Body scans are beneficial for relaxing the body and releasing any tension or discomfort and can also be used to manage stress and generally engage a relaxation response in the body. They are also a great way to lower reactivity to discomfort, as you bring more acceptance to sensations you might be experiencing in your body. Here is an example of a quick body scan you could easily do in nature:
- Close or soften your gaze if you feel comfortable and are in a safe setting for a few quiet moments
- Start by simply focusing on your breathing. Notice how the air moves in and out of the body
- Try to stay open to whatever sensations you might notice throughout the exercise, without judgment. There might be tightness or tension, tingling, or nothing. All are okay and normal.
- You might start at your head and slowly move your way down your body to your toes, or simply choose to focus on whatever areas in your body come most readily to your attention.
- Notice how you feel and continue to breathe deeply as you move along. You might breathe deeply into areas of tension, releasing that tension with each exhale.
- Spend as much time in each area as you like. If you notice your mind wandering, nice work! Go ahead and gently bring your attention back to the sensations in your body.
A body scan is a great break for you to focus on yourself and better understand your body and the sensations present there. The more you can bring a mindful, non-judgmental approach to those feelings, the more you can train yourself to become familiar and comfortable with any discomfort that might be present, eventually shifting your experience of that pain.
4. 5 Senses Grounding Exercise
Similar to how you might focus on engaging your senses during a mindful walk or through a mindful eating exercise, the 5 senses mindful grounding exercise is a fun way to get in touch with everything about your present experience.
This grounding exercise is a great tool for bringing yourself back to the present moment wherever you are and can be especially helpful in moments of stress or anxiety or when your mind is very active and jumping from thought to thought. This can be done with your eyes open, in any setting you choose. Nature is a great place as the environment is complex and filled with many things to engage the senses:
- Look for 5 things you see… a twisty tree, or the sun shining through the leaves perhaps
- Notice 4 things you feel…like the wind on your face or sweat rolling across your skin
- Tune in to 3 things you hear…any birds or insects being active?
- List 2 things you smell… such as the aroma of blooming flowers or recent rainfall
- Become aware of 1 thing you taste…maybe a recent snack or drink you’ve had?
5. Mindful Attention (Observation)
Mindful attention is a great way to get really specific. In nature, the landscapes can be really complex and there are a lot of different stimuli that you can be trying to process and take in. Mindful attention helps you to focus on one object in particular and block out all others for a few moments. You might even notice that doing so helps you to see things in a new light that you never noticed before, simply for lack of paying close enough attention:
- Choose 1 item around you to focus on. It might be a leaf, a blade of grass, or your birdbath
- Spend 1 minute (or a time of your choosing) focusing only on that object.
- Notice as much detail about it as possible, as if you are exploring it for the first time. Are there any aspects of it you never noticed before? Take it all in, looking it over as carefully as possible.
- If your mind wanders or you start to daydream or get distracted by other things around you, simply bring your focus back to the object of your choosing.
6. Mindful Seeing
Similar to mindful attention, mindful seeing is a fun mindfulness activity that also focuses on engaging your sense of sight. For this exercise, you might look out a window into the world outside or simply choose one area to focus on when you gaze straight ahead. Take a few moments to simply notice everything happening in the direction of your gaze. Rather than labeling anything (a bird, a tree, a flower, etc.), simply notice them. In this exercise nothing is good or bad, everything simply is. Bring awareness to shapes, colors, textures, or how things move in the breeze.
With so much to see in nature, mindful seeing is a great mindful exercise for the outdoors.
7. Mindful Breathing
The breath is a wonderful mindful anchor because it is a constant occurrence that can always help you return to the present moment. Unlike thoughts that can be focused on the past or the present, you can only breath in the here and now.
Mindful breathing is a quick and simple mindfulness exercise easily brought to the outdoors. Here is a simple mindful breathing exercise that can be done anywhere that is great for relieving stress:
- Take a pause and find a comfortable place to sit or stand, perhaps somewhere with an amazing view or where it is still and quiet.
- Focus your attention on the rhythm of your breath as it moves in and out of your body.
- Notice where your breath moves and how the air travels. Are you breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth? Is your breath deep into your abdomen or shallow in your chest? How does the air feel as it enters your body? How about when it moves out?
- You might choose to focus on the sensations of your breath or count your inhales and exhales, choose what feels best for you.
- Continue to bring your attention back to your breath if you notice your mind wandering
5 minutes is a great amount of time for an exercise like this, but you can always check in with your breath as much as you would like throughout your hike, walk, etc. Bathe in silence and focus on the life-giving breath that beats as a constant metronome through all that you do.
Please protect the natural areas you explore - for the wildlife, the environment, and for the enjoyment of future generations. Practice Leave No Trace