Some of you may be feeling like a fish inside a fishbowl. You have begun to learn every inch of your living room, seen every speck of dust on the shelves and have longed for the days you had freedom and flexibility. Prior to COVID-19, it was estimated that 93% of people spent majority of their time indoors. This is a scary stat to think about, even prior to a pandemic. As fall approaches, this is your opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature before the winter hits! We may even be savouring the outdoors more than “normal.”

There are great benefits to getting outside for our physical and mental health. The outdoors can often be a great place to relax, unwind and practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings and sensations of our surrounding environment. Being in nature lessens the potential for “mind wandering,” which allows us to be more present in our own lives. Being in nature decreases the chance of becoming distracted and completely overwhelmed by our emotions. When we are intentionally being present outdoors, our mood elevates, we sleep better, lower our blood pressure, boost our immune systems, increase our concentration and improve our overall wellbeing.

So how can one be mindful outside? Choose an activity that will best suit you. If you choose to go on a walk, walk slowly, aimlessly. If you choose to ride your bike, just ride. If you choose gardening, observe as your plants grow, feed and change. If you choose to wander, wander to a beautiful tree and just sit under it. Look up. If you choose to lay by the river, just lay. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do you taste? Mindfulness is feeling the sun on your skin, the wind in your hair, the sound of birds chirping. Mindfulness is just being.

Humans have 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day and more than half of those are about the past or the future. Too often we are missing the beautiful moments and scenery around us. So, when your mind does wander during an outdoor experience, “What am I making for dinner? Did I reply that text? Where is that missing sock of mine? I don’t have time to be outside,” just notice those thoughts, notice emotions that come up, avoid judgements and come back to the present. Mindfulness takes practice. Be gentle with yourself, get outside and enjoy this magical season.

To learn more about Mindfulness check out these free programs:

Written by: Mackenzie Fraser, Child Development Counsellor, YW Calgary