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Top 5 tips for practising mindfulness in the forest

Allow yourself the time and space that you need to reflect by taking a therapeutic trip to the forest and practicing these mindfulness activities. We worked with Mind, the mental health charity, to hone 5 tips.

1. Set aside some time

When you try mindfulness for the first time it can be helpful to pick a day when you have a bit of time to spare and aren’t very busy or in a hurry.

If you don’t have much time then consistent short periods of mindfulness can be better than occasional long ones. It can help to commit to a regular time every day to practice.

Sunset behind hedgerow, Berwickshire

If you struggle to find the time, it might suit you to focus on finding ways of being mindful in your daily life. You could decide on one or two routine activities which you will try to do mindfully each day. There are also a number of apps you can download on to your phone, such as the Headspace app, that teaches you mindfulness gradually through guided sessions.

Try this:
If you’re out for a walk take a minute’s silence and use this time to observe and listen to your surroundings. You can keep your eyes open, or close them if you wish. After you’ve taken this minute for yourself you might like to take a moment to reflect.

Were there any particular sights (if you had your eyes open), sounds, smells and sensations that captured your attention?

2. Go slowly

Try to build your practice slowly. Remember, you’re learning a new skill so it’ll take time to develop. Try to do a few minutes and gradually build up to more.

Touching and feeling the bark of an oak tree.

Notice when your mind wanders, which is just what minds do, and simply notice where your thoughts have drifted to. Be kind on yourself and try not to dwell on frustrations - focus on what you're currently feeling.

A good way to slow yourself down is to focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to keep your shoulders down and relaxed, and place your hand on your stomach – it should rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. Count as you breathe – start by counting to 4 as you breathe in, 4 as you breathe out, then work out what’s comfortable for you.

Learning to breathe more deeply can make you feel a lot calmer and increase your sense of wellbeing.

Try this:
Stand next to a tree and close your eyes. Take a minute to run your hands along the trunk.

What do you feel? Are there any sensations that are particularly noticeable? If you have brought any art materials with you then you could make a rubbing or etching of the tree.

3. Be aware and accept

Try to notice any emotions you are feeling or sensations in your body with curiosity and without judgement.Woman sitting on the shores of Loch Fyne, Ardcastle, Argyll In mindfulness this means paying attention to difficult feelings without judging yourself or trying to find a solution straight away, you are just accepting them as they are.

Accepting your difficult feelings doesn't mean putting up with bad situations – it means paying attention to your feelings and seeing if they pass or if there's something you can do to feel better.

Try this:
Develop your own mindful mantra to repeat to yourself, such as those spoken in a Loving-Kindness Meditation.

You may find it helpful to combine the mantra with a breathing exercise, taking a deep breath in and then reciting all or part of the mantra as you exhale each breath.

4. Be patient

There is no need to set goals when practising mindfulness. Putting pressure on yourself may make it harder to be mindful.

Silvan Capitalis, Lakeside Way, Kielder Water and Forest Park

It’s perfectly natural for your mind to wander so, if it does, simply notice where your thoughts have drifted to and then try and bring your focus back to the present.

Remember steps 2 & 3 and give yourself the time you need to practice and develop your time spent being mindful.

Try this:
Take some time to draw your surroundings or do some mindful colouring. Download the Forestry Commission adult colouring sheets and let us know how you get on.

5. Take care of yourself

Whilst it is impossible to practice mindfulness incorrectly, you may want to think about how you look after yourself if any difficult feelings or sensations should arise. Active over 55 campaign, Haldon It's not usually a good idea to start learning mindfulness when you're very unwell because it can be hard to get the most out of it, and you may find it distressing at first.

If difficult feelings do crop up then the Mind website offers a number of tips on how you can take care of yourself.

Try this:
Try a rainbow walk where you look out for objects that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

Keep going through the colours until the end of your walk. If you have a camera you could take a picture of each of these objects or you could draw them.

 

Be aware that no one activity will work for everyone, so it’s important to try out a range to see what works best for you. For example, a body scan may not be the best activity if you are experiencing pain as it is focuses inwardly. In these instances you may want to bring your attention to your surroundings and use one of our activities that can help you do this. Remember to have a look at Mind’s self-care tips if the mindfulness activity makes you feel uncomfortable.

For more information and resources about mindfulness visit the Mind website, or read our Q&A with Mind.


Mind LogoThis content was provided in partnership with Mind, the mental health charity. Mind is a registered charity No. 219830

Last updated: 23rd August 2017

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.