Going green is so good for you, and we’re not just talking about spinach smoothies. Studies show that being in nature can improve memory, promote sharper thinking, enhance the ability to focus, and improve mood as well as immune function. Living in a city is no excuse. You can find patches anywhere and everywhere. Make it a habit to get fresh air at least twice a day to soothe your mind and restore mental energy. Listen to this guided meditation as you head out for a stroll, no matter where you live.
1. Urbanites, Hit the Streets
City life is most challenging when it comes to connecting with the rhythms of nature. Circadian rhythms can easily get screwed up by all night dining options, street lights, honking horns outside your window, etc. What is less clear is how to get your fix of nature effectively and mindfully. Commit to finding ways to be outside, breathing fresh air, and connecting to the essential rhythm of the place. It may be a rhythm syncopated by car horns and more concrete than green pastures, but it is still possible to find the beauty in all of it.
On a concrete jungle walk, determine that you will stop at every light and look around at the architecture of the buildings. Look up at the sky. Notice how many trees line that block or planters, or not. Take a few deep, relaxing breaths, drop the shoulders, feel the weight of yourself on the sidewalk, and carry on. Make your way to a riverside or park, and sit there for at least five minutes to enjoy quiet contemplation.
With open eyes, make an effort to soften the gaze so that you are taking in the scene almost in peripheral vision. No major focus or intensity of attention. Just breathe and notice how it all feels. You will likely notice patterns of movement, sound, and smell. You can feel your seat on the bench or in the grass. Breath and notice the rhythm of life carrying on around you.
2. Mountain Folks, Take a Hike
Set out on your hike with a sense of self. Stand still and tall before you start. Feel your feet grounding, your head rising, and your breath filling your lungs. Listen to the sounds of nature around you. What can you hear, smell, taste? Take a final deliberate deep breath and head off.
If you have a companion, make an agreement that while you might talk as you walk, each time you stop, you will do so in silence. You will stop. Inhale and sweep the arms overhead and exhale, letting the arms trace a graceful arc around your body. Inhale and exhale two more times like this. Then stand. Gaze softly at the horizon or lower, unless you are feeling tired, in which case, gaze skyward.
Now watch, listen, smell. Feel your skin and notice the quality of your breath, deep and full. Watch the birds and bees and anything else that attracts your attention. Observe without engaging it. If you start thinking or attaching memories, then acknowledge and let them go easily, returning the focus gently on other aspects of the present experience.
Related: A 5-Minute Walking Meditation for Mind-Body Connection
3. Beach Babes, Find Your Flow
Walk down toward the shore. Feel the sand between your toes, its temperature and texture. Once you find a dry spot near the water, take a comfortable seat. Soften the gaze toward the horizon and let sensation arise and dissipate. Engage with the rhythm of the sea. Notice the smells and the sounds. The rhythm of the waves, the undulation of the water. See the movements of tiny birds along the shore, or hear the wail of the wind. Inhale and exhale in a gentle rhythm so quiet that you hardly notice where your body touches the air around you. Just be a gentle observer and when thoughts or memories or desires or to-do lists arise, redirect the mind to the ever-moving water, the soothing sounds in the air and your own breath…even the sounds of your blood flowing through your body.
By Lisa Hedley