Using mindfulness and nature to reduce anxiety

One of my favourite places to be, is completely immersed in nature. Not ‘doing’ anything in particular, just being. Wandering. Noticing. Absorbing

But whilst wandering around the Cloud Forest in Singapore at the weekend, re-educating myself on the environmental impact that we humans are having on the planet, I had a realisation that so many children and adults really are disconnected from nature.

Now, thankfully, I know that this is not all children and adults. I have worked with schools across the Globe that infuse environmental awareness into their daily lessons, nature is the foundation of their curriculum and school ethos, and the community fully embody and appreciate the natural world

But, I have also worked with alot of inner-city schools where nature is sparse and in general, there is a huge disconnect between poeple and the natural world.

And what is the major difference that I observe between those communities that feel connected to nature, and those that barely see any greenery?

A reduction in anxiety and an increase in self-awareness, in those that have time to mindfully connect to the natural world. (Not to mention a serious decrease in screen-addicted children

Now, if you know me well, you’ll know that nature is a huge feature of my children’s yoga classes and training courses. This partly comes from my background as an educator and my studies of Waldorf Steiner and Forest Schools, but also because I truly believe that nature has the power to heal, soothe and inspire us all (ultimately reducing anxiety and enhancing well-being!)

So, here I’m sharing 3 ways in which you can infuse nature into yours (and your family’s) daily life and mindfulness routine to help heal, soothe and inspire, reduce anxiety and increase self-awareness.

1. Natural Mandala Art Meditations

Overall, I’d say that this is my favourite moving meditation and certainly a favourite of both my young and adult students.

What is it?

In short, moving in silence (or with soothing background music) to create a mandala using natural materials such as shells, twigs, flowers and stones. This can be done as a group, creatively collaborating without communicating, or as an individual, to really enhance self-awareness.

What is it really?

A great all-rounder for creating a calm, quiet mind, cultivating patience and mindfulness and learning lessons in non-attachment to emotions and experiences, so that your brain and body can apply these new-found tools into daily life when feeling sad, angry or disappointed.

2. The Pebble Meditation

Another wonderful and meaningful moving meditation.

What is it?

Quietly and mindfully stacking pebbles, each of which represents an element in nature and a quality that you can embody in yourself (a strong mountain, a peaceful river). As you stack the pebbles, say a mantra, aloud or in your mind, to connect to those elements and qualities.

What is it really?

A traditional technique to enhance self-awareness, a still mind and an understanding and appreciation that we can embody the characteristics that we admire about the natural world. The mantras are used to rewire our brain to truly believe that we are strong, peaceful and free

3. Flower Breathing

What is it?

Simply put, smelling the flowers

What is it really?

A breathing technique that uses the beauty of nature to extend and enhance each breath.

Choose a flower and take a few mindful moments to observe it, noticing what you can see, feel and smell. Then inhale deeply through your nose, hold the breath in for a moment, being aware of how it feels, exhale deeply through your mouth – a deep cleansing breath with a super-sweet scent, to engage your para-sympathetic nervous system and shift into ‘rest and digest’ mode.

So, whether you’re immersed in nature’s beauty or bringing these techniques into the indoor space, its easy to create a deeper connection to nature to reduce anxiety and increase self-awareness, with these 3 simple mindfulness strategies.

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