A Year of Mindfulness – 26 – Nature

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

Nature is kind of my jam (bonus points if you get the reference!), so I physically rejoiced when I picked this week’s card out of the jar. I love nature and being outside in it, so I knew this I’d love this week’s challenge.

This week, I was supposed to go outside every day and pick up something I found (such as a leaf, twig, flower etc.) and study it for 5 minutes thoroughly, paying attention to the colours, shapes, patterns and intricacies of the object. I should think about how the object came into existence and how it ended up where I found it.

OK – so not quite the nature task I was hoping for.

So, in true me fashion, I didn’t follow the task but adapted it to suit me. I did go out in nature every day as I do anyway, but I didn’t pick objects up and examine them as such. I basically carried on as I usually do, walking my dog or running outdoors, sometimes getting up close to flowers and plants and examining them, sometimes just breathing in the fresh air. I also looked at photographs on my phone that I’ve taken over the years in beautiful, wide, open spaces and reminisced on the times I’ve enjoyed being outdoors. So instead of sharing objects that I examined, I decided to choose one thing each day between Monday and Friday that I loved about being outdoors, and why it always cheers me up.

One of my life goals is to live somewhere where I have beautiful landscapes on my doorstep (more than I do now!) and can enjoy it all day every day. For now, I can dream.

5 Reasons to Enjoy Nature

1. It’s Profound

There’s nothing quite like getting outside, breathing in fresh air, observing the wonder of the world and listening to the sounds of nature. Being outside in vast open spaces does amazing things for my mental wellbeing, and there’s something so profound about seeing the world’s natural beauty that is completely indifferent to human life (minus, you know, global warming). Some of the most profound experiences I’ve had in my life have been when exploring in places like Norway and Iceland, where I found myself on the fjords or in a crater, surrounded by mountains, lakes and wildlife, and in silence so absolute that it gives meaning to the phrase ‘you could hear a pin drop’. Just knowing that there is so much natural beauty and majestic formations that have been around for millions of years, and are so much greater than our minds can comprehend is enough to make me feel awe-inspired, fascinated and at peace, all at the same time. I love it!

2. The Variety of Species

I love seeing different animals out in their natural habitats and I’m fascinated by the number of different species that exist in the world. I’m always in awe of animals like elephants and horses, which are so majestic, but I also love wild animals like foxes, wolves and rats. Everybody seems to hate rats, and I appreciate they’re seen as vermin but we have one that sneaks into our garden and steals all the food we put out for the birds in the birdhouse, and I never scare it off because it just looks cute, and I think it must be starving to be eating birdseed. I can always put more out for the birds (that is, if the squirrels don’t also steal it first!).

Speaking of birds, through lockdown and spending much more time at home, I’ve really noticed the variety of birds we get visiting the feeder in our garden. It’s not something I’ve ever paid attention to before, I’ve always just enjoyed putting food out for them, but I can actually identify them now and have been learning about the different types that come to visit. I think I often forget that we share a planet with so many different species which then have so many different types, and often, we don’t even need to leave our doorstep to observe them. I find it particularly peaceful watching these birds in my garden, and as I mentioned in a previous post, my Dad gave me a pair of binoculars so I can see them up close with all their details. It’s a great way to enjoy a coffee and be present. Though as I write this, I’m wondering when the hell I became such a geek?

3. The Unpredictability of the Climate

Living in the North West, in one of – if not the rainiest city in the UK – the weather is extremely unpredictable. One minute it will be scorching hot and sunny and the next you’ll find yourself in the middle of a torrential downpour. The weather has always fascinated me, even in its most extreme forms like floods and tornadoes, tsunamis and hurricanes. As a kid, I was weirdly terrified of tornadoes and floods (despite not living in a country where tornadoes are particularly common and having never experienced a flood) and it still frightens me now, though admittedly, not as much. It fascinates me more than anything. It makes me realise that there are so much we are not in control of, and we are always at the mercy of natural elements. It’s both scary and profound at the same time. Though I have to admit, global warming does terrify me.

4. It’s a Great Way to be Mindful

Sometimes whilst juggling all the different aspects of my life, it can be difficult to break away from my working environment or to-do list to just get out into fresh air. But forcing myself to get out in nature is amazing and a fantastic way to practice mindfulness.

Walking the same routes daily with my dog, I’ve come to be more aware of changes in scenery over recent months. I recently looked at an Instagram post I posted just before we went into lockdown, where I was thrilled because I was able to walk my dog at lunchtime or later in the morning before work due to the lack of commute to work. In the photo, there were no leaves on the tree in front of me. Since then, that tree has had two different types of blossom, and is now filled with leaves that are turning into deeper green and brown colours, and will likely fall off soon. Seeing these changes is a great reminder to me that everything is temporary and things don’t last too long – that’s why it’s all the more important to be present. You can take that as comfort if you’re feeling particularly down, or you can take it as inspiration as to why you should make the move to do something soon because life is short. Either way, being outdoors is a great way to check-in with yourself and be present.

5. It’s a Great Mental Health Boost

I can’t explain it, but everything just feels so much better in nature. I feel calmer, happier and I am able to think more clearly. It’s hard to be outside in fresh air and maintain stresses you may have felt beforehand, and that is especially true for when you are in truly beautiful places. I always think about the most beautiful places I’ve visited, namely Norway, but also dream of one day visiting New Zealand. But living in the North West of England, I am nestled between some of the most beautiful places in the country. I have the Peak District on my doorstep, the Lake District not too far away and I can be in North Wales in a little over an hour. All of these places are world-renowned national parks and there are some truly magnificent places. My favourite that’s closest to me is Dovestone Reservoir, where I’ve taken my dog many a time for a dose of everything! Woods, a lake (well – reservoir!) and hills – what more could I want?! As I get older, I’ve found that I’m most at peace when I’m outdoors, and just getting outside for a little while can eliminate stresses, concerns and anxieties I may be facing at a particular time.

So that’s it from me this week, it’s been lovely to reflect on all the reasons I adore nature and I’m sure many of you will agree with me.

If you’re reading this, and you know of any places that I absolutely must see in my life, please let me know – even if it’s in a different country. I’m all for recommendations and actually plan a lot of my travel around recommendations from people, so the more the better!

Take care and I’ll see you next week!

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