Shortened cold, gray and damp
days are hardly elements that motivate us to get outside, right? When I
talk with teens in my office about spending time in nature,
particularly in the winter months, the conversation quickly shifts to
avoiding the cold and waiting until Spring when things warm up and
everything starts to brighten and bloom again.
get it. We’re more inclined to associate winter as a time for solitude
and it's important to make time for rest, but the reality is when we
allow the conditions of each season to control our relationship with the
natural world, our preferences may result in waiting out the
“uncomfortable” for the more “comfortable” and before we know it, we
can end up spending days, even months stuck inside.
When we consider the growing body of research that has advanced our understanding
of how time in nature improves our mental health and well-being, it
seems worthy to reconsider the conditioned response that has many of us
avoiding the winter climate.
provides the ideal setting to observe our reactions to present moment
experiences. Pause for a moment now, and imagine yourself preparing to
spend the next 20-minutes outside no matter the conditions. What
happens within your own internal landscape? Maybe you notice
resistance, slight tension in your body, feelings of dread, maybe your
mind creates negative thoughts about how this experience might unfold or
excuses for why this is a bad idea? Or maybe, you welcome the proposal
noticing a small burst of energy in your body and your mind is already
preparing to bundle up for an adventure?
Regardless of your current
relationship status with the natural world, taking into account that
nature is also the ideal setting for quieting the mind, calming the
body, and resetting the nervous system, one might argue that it’s a
relationship worth making space for. And beyond our own benefit, research suggests that how we think about nature; our affective relationship with and the extent to which we see ourselves as part of nature has an impact on nature’s wellbeing too.
it’s simply standing outside your front door to stretch and take a few
full breaths of fresh air, gazing out the window to experience
snowflakes gently falling to the ground, or mindfully taking a walk
through your neighborhood, setting the intention to venture outside
several times a week (yes, even in the Winter) is important for your
mental wellness and here are some ideas to get you started this season!
negative association with feeling cold is often one of the biggest
deterrents to spending time in nature during the winter months. In this
exercise, we set the intention to spend just a few minutes outside
exploring the sensation of cold, with a curious attitude versus
might dress in a winter coat but leave the hat and mittens for your
mindful winter walk; the aim is not to experience extreme discomfort,
but to simply notice the sensations of cold. Be safe and consider the
temperature before heading out.
next time you bundle up to head outside, notice your anticipation or
reaction to going out into the cold. How could it impact your
experience? Step Outside to Energize Take
a short break from online school or homework and notice what happens
when you connect with nature by stepping outside into the cool brisk air
for a mind-body break.
outside and make sure you’re on clear ground. Stand tall and steady,
in an alert and relaxed position. You might close your eyes if this
feels comfortable to you. Start by taking a few full mindful
1-2 minutes observing sensations, feelings, and thoughts that may arise
as you experience the cold. Notice the parts of your body where the
cold air touches your skin. What are the different sensations of the
cold; can you explore these sensations without any judgment? Do the
sensations vary in intensity? Notice the contrast of cold versus the
areas where you feel warmth. Let yourself just be with this experience
without demand for it to change.
- When you’re ready, step back inside and take a moment to reflect on the experience and what you observed.
Moon Gazing With
less daylight in the winter months, the darkness provides us with more
opportunities to witness the moon rise and set. Look up with wonder and
awe concentrating on the here and now; moon and stargazing is a fun
mindfulness experience to share with friends or family!Dress
for the weather, make sure you’re comfortable. You can sit or stand,
or consider using a warm blanket and lying down. Find a comfortable
place outside where you have a clear view of the moon and/or stars. In
this exercise allow your body to settle and be still. Bring awareness
to the simplicity and greatness of being under the stars in the brisk
winter air. Look up at the sky taking in the wholeness of what you
see. Simply spend time gazing at the moon and stars. If you get
distracted by thoughts or things around you, simply guide your attention
back to what you’re seeing above you. Before ending this mindfulness
activity, check in with how you feel and then head inside for a warm cup
of hot chocolate!
- Dress comfortably for the conditions and find a space outside where you can stand comfortably for 1-2 minutes.
5-10 full breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your
mouth. You might consider syncing movement to your breath; as you
inhale slowly lift and raise your arms to overhead. Pause when your
arms are stretched towards the sky. Exhale slowly while extending your
arms back downward towards the ground until they reach your sides.
Repeat with each breath cycle.
your breath come back to its natural state and take a moment to orient
to here and now. Notice what’s directly in front of you. Look to see
what’s above and below you. Turn to see what is behind you.
- Check in with how you feel in your body and mind before heading back indoors.
Mindful Winter Walk
setting an intention to walk each week engaging your senses in the
present moment. A simple walk in your yard, at a nearby park, or grab a
friend and check out one of the many county parks near you!
your pace for a portion of your walk bringing your full attention to
the sensation of your feet connecting to the earth beneath you.
Pause for a minute or two to engage your senses:
Nature Meditation by a Window We
often go through the motions of daily living without really paying
attention to the wonder that’s right outside the window. This simple
exercise is an invitation to pause and connect with the natural world
from the comfort of your own home. Dropping into the present moment can
activate the body’s natural relaxation response, reducing stress
levels. The key to accessing the benefits of this break is to bring a
level of attention and mindfulness to the activity.
in the sights. Look ahead and notice the details of what’s directly in
front of you, above and then below you. Turn to see the landscape
- Next, pay attention to
sounds. Try not to label, name or judge what you hear. Simply open your
awareness to the range of sounds both far and near.
- Shift your awareness to the feeling of air against your skin and if you’re lucky, the warmth of the sun.
- Take a few full breaths, feeling the crisp air as it enters your nostrils. Do you notice any smells?
the entirety of your body in this moment starting with your feet
connected to the ground beneath you and slowly making your way up until
you reach the crown of your head reaching towards the sky.
- When you’re ready, continue with your walk.
- Find a comfortable seat at a window that provides a view of the outdoors.
- Looking outside, bring a sense of wonder to the experience, as if seeing the landscape outside the window for the first time.
- Take in all there is to see. Notice shapes, colors, contrasts, patterns and textures.
the mind creates a narrative about what you see, or starts to label and
categorize, bring your attention back to simply noticing what you see.
- Take a few mindful breaths to end this practice and check in with how you feel.