Finding the stillness within
Never more than at this moment in time have people been seeking serenity, looking for ways to address uncertainty and uneasiness being experienced during this current Covid-19 situation.
Some people have discovered that the enforced lockdown has resulted in them doing a lot more walking than usual, creating greater awareness of their local environment. Daily walks along the same routes have delivered insight into ongoing changes that occur in nature as Spring gently morphs into Summer, as it always does, but usually much less noticed.
Nature connection promotes deeper connection with self
A deeper connection with the natural world, through enforced slowing down, has certainly brought about greater awareness of nature, previously glimpsed mainly through a car window. But the benefits have not just been about noticing more about what goes on in the natural world but about how being in nature and connecting with it actually makes us feel as human beings. People are finally discovering, en masse, the delights and wellbeing benefits delivered through nature connection. Has that been your experience?
Nature connection makes us happier and healthier
As we are poised to hear recommendations about the next stage of our current lockdown privileges it seems likely that spending time outdoors will feature prominently. Apart from the fact that it’s considered less likely to contract Covid-19 whilst involved in leisure activities outdoors, the mental, emotional and physical health benefits of spending time outdoors should not be underestimated.
Scientific studies have consistently shown that nature connection, engaged with on a regular basis, makes people feel happier and more healthy.
In Japan, Shinrin Yoku (Forest Bathing) is part of their National Health Service provision. Research carried out for over 40 years has proved that just spending time in the forest, engaged in what could be described as mindfulness themed activities, is enough to reduce blood pressure, reduce anxiety and have positive health benefits for those suffering from illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.
It must be said that I’m not suggesting nature connection (or Forest Bathing) could provide an alternative to prescribed medications, but numerous research studies show that nature connection activities can significantly boost the body’s immune response.
Nature gives us what we need
How nature connection is a mindful activity
Becoming more aware of nature on a daily walk could be said to be very mindful. The act of slowing down to really notice what is growing in the hedgerow, or in the gardens of the houses you pass by, is an act of being in the present moment, focussing your attention on what is happening right at that moment.
I actively encourage people to take their phones with them when out walking, not to make phone-calls or to check into their messages or social media, but to take photos of what they see. Your phone can actually help you stay focussed in the present moment as you bring conscious attention to looking for the next fascinating thing you come across in nature along your walk.
Phones, used in the way described above, could help keep you focussed on the task of ‘noticing’, encouraging positive emotions to thrive that can deliver mental relaxation, which you’ll find is quite restorative. Nature connection and mindfulness almost go hand in hand.
Then there’s the added benefit that you can look at the photos once you return home and can relive that little shot of delight experienced when you discovered something in nature that captured your attention. You can’t actually capture the scent of a flower or a blossom through a photo, but your brain receptors will deliver that memory in full technicolour glory that will light up the ‘positivity’ areas of your brain.
Again, there’s scientific evidence to show that just looking at pictures of nature can deliver wellbeing benefits, so my advice would be to give it a go and take your phone with you when out on your next walk. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your photos on social media when you return, maybe even reflecting and sharing on how your connection with nature made you feel. More serene?
The link between serenity and stillness
To experience serenity you need to cultivate the ability to find a stillness within. You can return from a lovely walk, where you’ve really taken time to notice your surroundings, and experience a state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled, even if it doesn’t seem to last for long once you get home again.
However, if having experienced feelings of serenity through nature connection you feel you’d like to learn how to tap into those feelings on a more regular basis, then exploring the practice of mindfulness is perhaps something worth considering.
Mindfulness is a way of life, but you don’t have to give anything up to enter into its home! In fact you are advised to carry on being just who you are, because there’s nothing wrong with who you are.
However, through developing a mindfulness practice that works for you, it’s possible to become more aware of how habitual thought patterns are at the root of how you feel the way you do. Negative thought loops can be lessened, reducing suffering. One of the most enlightening aspects of mindfulness training for people is realising the truth in the phrase “thoughts are not facts, even those that say they are”.
Mindfulness is essentially a training for the brain to help people become more at home in their own skin. Regular mindfulness practice gently nurtures greater awareness of thoughts and actions, with the aim of less ‘negatives’ and more ‘positives’ featuring in and influencing your life experience.
Through mindfulness practice you nurture serenity through developing the ability to cultivate stillness in your mind, through learning to intentionally focus in the present rather than be dragged by your mind back to the events of the past or the ‘possibles’ of the future.
Mindfulness training for the brain is to influence it to do more of what you want it to do, rather than what it wants to do. Opening your mind to the wellbeing benefits of mindfulness is one of the most life-enhancing gifts you will ever award yourself.
There’s many, many, many mindfulness offers out there, particularly at the moment, offering solutions to feelings of anxiety and stress. However, you may have already found that it’s very challenging to keep going with regular meditation practice when you don’t really understand what it is you’re supposed to be experiencing from what you’re being asked to do?
From my own experience, I know that it’s very difficult to establish an effective model for living your life more mindfully without having some input/support from a Mindfulness Teacher early on in your endeavours. If that’s been your experience and you’d like to find out how I could support you to find serenity and stillness within, then please start a conversation and let’s see what approach is most likely to be helpful for you.