Parks, forests, coasts, urban gardens, backyards, or any space where nature is predominant are prime places for nature-connection experiences. The activities shared here may be done alone, in pairs or with groups.
As with any outing in nature, please be aware of any potential hazards, such as poisonous plants, slippery rocks, and bugs that bite.
Find a quiet place and get comfortable either standing or sitting on the ground. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and wait to feel grounded. Become aware of your environment by focusing on one sense at a time. Tune into sound and notice the sounds near and far, the silence in-between sounds, and the whole soundscape. Tune into touch and notice the texture and qualities of the air on your exposed skin. Spread your fingers (and toes) and feel the air between them. Notice the the warmth and coolness from the sun and shade. Tune into smell and notice the different aromas present. Taste the air. Tune into gravity and feel it pulling you to the earth. Gently sway your body. Put your hands over your heart and feel your heartbeat. Return to any sensation you like. Are birds singing? Are trees rustling? Can you feel the warmth of the sunshine? When you’re ready to open your eyes, open them slowly and notice all around you.
On a walking trail, park or open space, walk at a pace that feels comfortable to you for about 20 minutes. No matter how you walk, focus your attention on nature and your breathing. You may like to alternate between slow, brisk, and fast walking. Slow walking fosters a heightened state of awareness, calm and connection with the natural world. In large open spaces, such as a park, try slow walking in circles, expanding and contracting the size of your circles. Faster walking relieves stress and energizes the body. Try holding your arms out to your sides as you walk, like an airplane, or stretching them over your head. No matter how you walk, do pause along the way to notice the small wonders of nature.
3︱Make Friends With Trees
Find a tree that attracts to you and get to know it well. Spend at least 10 minutes with your tree. Some possible ways to engage with trees are:
Explore the tree: Gaze at the tree for five minutes. What does it tell you about itself? Trees belong to different species and have histories, families, stories, and unique qualities. Lean against the tree, touch the tree, feel its leaves, bark, flowers, fruit. What knowledge does it share with you?
Climb the tree: Carefully climb (shoes off) and find a place to sit or lie safely and enjoy the view.
Tell the tree a story: Share a secret, your dreams, a prayer, or send a message to a loved one. Trees provide a non-judging space to express yourself.
Meditate with the tree: Either sitting or lying down, breathe and become aware of the interconnected link of breath between you and the tree.
Stretch your body with the tree: Use the tree as a support to stretch your back, arms, legs and torso.
❤ Read the story behind this film and get a copy of the poem at this link.
4︱Grounding with Body and Breath
Find a quiet place in nature, take off your shoes and stand on the earth. Relax your breath. Straighten your spine. Become aware of the sensations from your legs, ankles and feet moving up from the ground. Stand for a few minutes until you feel stable. Then, move your awareness slowly up from the feet to the top of your head. Notice if there’s tension, stress, or stiffness in any part of your body. Stay with the areas of your body that call your attention. Take a deep breath, expanding your belly. Pause. Exhale slowly to the count of five. Repeat. Imagine the forest air soothing your body with every in-breath and your tiredness dissolving into the ground with every out-breath. This deep breathing brings fresh oxygen and phytoncides (natural compounds that increase blood cells which fight cancer and tumors) into our lungs, tissues and organs. They also ground our bodies and can give relief from inflammation, pain and stress. Benefits of deep breathing are amplified manifold in the forest.
Nature is a wonderful therapist. Using your senses, let yourself be drawn to an element of nature, such as a tree, a rock, or light. Sit comfortably with it and ask a question, silently or aloud, that you are seeking support or guidance on. With your senses open and mind neutral, listen. An answer may come to you in the form of an intuition, a physical sensation, an insight or a new idea. It is possible that no answer will come while you wait, but it may come to you later in another way. The intention is to rest your mind and let be open to receive.
Create an impermanent artwork made from found elements of nature. The work of Andy Goldsworthy is an inspiration, but we need not go so far! Some ideas for your nature art: gratitude mandala, animal home, ikebana, labyrinth, toy house and bridge. If you’re with others, try a ‘gallery walk’ afterwards to share your creations. (Here are some ideas for Forest Art )
Indigenous cultures considered animals to be our brothers and sisters and knew how to understand them, as did saints, sages, yogis and mystics. Animals experience the world in ways that overlap our own, and each species has special characteristics. We can learn to appreciate animals by bring their aspects into ourselves through observation and play. If you’re alone, sit someplace quietly and open yourself to observe the animals by maintaining a neutral, open, gentle state of awareness. Find the qualities you love most about your favorite animal and bring these visualizations into your own body. After some time, animals and birds will become used to your presence and may come out of hiding.
For groups, stand in a circle and ask people to call forth their favorite animal. Then, give yourselves a fun task, such as building animal homes, or a enacting the role of your animal. After 10-15 minutes of play, reconvene in a circle to create a poem. Begin with a word or sound that suits the day, and then going around the circle each person contributes a word/sound until a freestyle poem emerges and runs its course.
Dance in nature. Dance with the wind. Dance alone with headphones. Dance with friends. Make a drum circle. Stomp and clap. However you like. Be respectful of nature and dance with it.
If water is present, find a comfortable place to sit beside the water to meditate or simply enjoy the sensory experience. Water sounds and visuals calm our brains and nervous systems. Moving waters encourage going with the flow, letting go, movement, change, and creative energy. Still waters encourage self-reflection. If possible, feel the water with your hands and feet. Get a natural foot massage and refresh yourself.
Find a comfortable spot on the ground, lie down, take off your shoes, and take in the life around you. Sky-gaze, daydream, meditate, watch insects, breathe, nap, or feel free to simply enjoy being with nature. Try positioning your body like a starfish, with arms and legs outstretched. This grounding activity will calm and refresh your body and mind.
*This page is part of our Nature Calm course with 100+ ideas for mindful nature based activities and meditations from around the world.
Article contributed by Julie Hall. Julie is a forest therapy guide and founder of Shinrin-Yoku Walks in Santa Barbara, California, USA.