Life can be genuinely stressful and hard to decompress from. There can be any number of things weighing on you. When you are stressed, it can deplete your energy and make routine tasks difficult to complete. We live in a world where everything is go-go-go, and it seems like no task can wait because they are all pressing.
Sometimes, it takes turning off our phones and computers, completely disconnecting, and going out into nature to replenish our energy and feel rejuvenated. There are any number of places out in nature we can explore and activities we can do that will bring us new life. Let’s go over what some of them are below!
Visit a National Park for Forest Bathing
There are beautiful national parks here, including Thousand Islands National Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park, and The Toronto Island Park, to name a few. Make it a point of visiting one these or another we may not have mentioned, to spend time in nature.
While you are there, note the sounds of nature. Use your senses to experience your surroundings fully —this is what forest bathing is. Touch the soil; doing so will make your brain release serotonin. Smell the different scents the trees, flowers, and bodies of water around you give off. Take deep breaths of fresh air while you take in the beautiful scenery around you.
We are lucky to have a wide variety of choices of places to visit with family and friends, but try going to one of these parks on your own. Make it a day trip for meditation and mindfulness. When you need rejuvenation, it’s important to focus on yourself first and not worry about who is going, what you’re all going to eat, and who wants to explore what. It’s a time to enjoy a place for yourself, by yourself, and come out of it refreshed.
Take Up Gardening
For many people, gardening is a form of therapy and healing, not just a hobby. Go out to your front yard, plant some seeds, dig weeds out, water your plant, and trim leaves off bushes. You’d be surprised how meditative and rejuvenating it is to garden.
If you don’t have a yard of your own to garden in, join one of Toronto’s community gardens. To join one of these gardens, you have to get in touch with the community garden supervisor. Call a few within the area you would like to join; some may have a waiting list.
Simply put, gardening is good for the soul. Gardening forces you to slow down from your usual fast-paced, on-the-move lifestyle. Your mind can relax and focus on the task at hand instead of thinking about your to-do list or focusing on anxiety-inducing thoughts.
Practice Yoga Outdoors
As we have been discussing, being outdoors with nature is good for your mental health and spirit. While there is nothing wrong with being in a set environment for yoga practice, consider practicing outdoors in nature. A study found in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine states that people, when exposed to a forest environment instead of an urban environment, had a lower concentration of cortisol, the stress hormone.
When you touch sand or a grassy field, you become stimulated. Listening to the sounds of nature, such as waves, river currents, birds chirping, or the wind rustling leaves, provide restoration, per a 2017 study.
Further, working out or doing yoga on slightly uneven ground helps engage and strengthen your core. As you spend more time in nature, while doing yoga, or your preferred solo activity, you become more fluent in processing sensory experiences. Doing so helps you shut off the part of your brain that focuses on checking off lists and allows you to be in the now.
Practice Mindful Meditation Outdoors
If you’ve never meditated outdoors, you may be thinking to yourself that it will be counterproductive. After-all, the outdoors has many sounds and goings-on that may be distracting and keep you from being mindful. Our suggestion to you is to find a place outdoors where you are the least likely to be disturbed for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes. If you prefer to be seated, be sure to find a chair or bench you find comfortable enough to sit upright.
However, you don’t have to sit to meditate, especially if you’re outdoors. You can stand in place, walk around, or even lie down to further connect with nature. Once you’re ready to start, you can set a time for the length of time you want to meditate. Practicing mindful meditation outdoors is another great opportunity to use your senses to take in nature, focus on the now, and push out stressors.
If you are walking during your meditation, focus on how the wind feels as it blows through your hair, how the warmth of the sun touches your skin, and the different smells from nature. During your meditative walk, if you are on a dirt path, notice the unevenness or smoothness of the ground as you take each step. Is the dirt very dry and a hard surface, wet or slippery, and how even or uneven is the path? There are many things in nature we can focus on to be mindful.
Meditating while sitting down is nice for those with less mobility or prefer to be in a set place while practicing mindfulness. Select a location that is not too bright where you may be disturbed by heat or the brightness of the sun. Again, here feel the breeze and focus on how it feels, put your hand on the bench or chair, and pay attention to the texture and material of your seat —note the sounds and smells of your surroundings.
It may seem odd to go to a public space and lie down to meditate, or even a bit awkward. Don’t let this stop you! Many cities and towns have a large park with a field of grass where you can bring a blanket to lie on or feel free to lie directly on the grass. If you have a backyard with space you can use for meditation, feel free to practice mindful meditation there. It is one of the most relaxing forms of mindful meditation we can suggest, and we hope you are willing to try it.
Allow yourself to do these in almost any weather, but also take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather we are having; you will come out with a clearer mind and a calmer spirit.