Nature on the Mind

virginia creeper on rock wall Kevin Moore 1171x593

The bright green leaves of a Virginia creeper cling to a rock wall.

Kevin Moore

Nature Journaling: Week 4

Find our complete Nature Journal series here.

“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.” —Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School

Spending time in nature has a wealth of benefits. Not only can nature provide opportunities for us to become more physically fit, it can improve our psychological health as well. Medical researchers have long promoted the mental benefits of spending time outdoors. From reducing stress to improving relaxation and memory, nature can work wonders on our body and mind if we allow it.

Our manmade environments are filled with harsh lighting and sounds that hamper our body’s ability to relax. In contrast, natureprovides soft colors and gentle sounds that can ease us into a calm state. Imagine an osprey delicately landing on its sturdy nest after a long journey home. Visualize rays of light at daybreak brilliantly glinting off a spider’s newly spun web. Or consider the simple motion of piece of driftwood bobbing in and out on the tide. Focusing mindfully on images like these reminds us to be conscious of nature and to allow it to tend to our health. All you need is a touch mindfulness.

According to mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” To experience the benefits of mindfulness in nature you simply need to go outside, breathe deeply, and consciously recognize the world around you. Take in the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of nature. Simply exist—and notice. As Dr. Cheryl Fisher, the author of “Mindfulness & Nature-Based Therapeutic Techniques for Children,” states,“[Mindfulness] is free. It is accessible. It is organic.”

You can cultivate mindfulness through a variety of practices. Formal mindfulness involves setting aside a prescribed time to focus on being in the present moment using practices like meditation and nature drawing. Informal mindfulness simply involves bringing awareness to daily activities such as eating, walking, or doing the dishes. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar and human rights activist states, “Every one of us already has the seed of mindfulness. The practice is to cultivate it.” Nature journaling provides us the opportunity to be present, improve our writing and drawing skills, and learn something new about the beautiful world around us. Especially in these trying times, we need the many psychological advantages mindfulness teaches us to cultivate.

“When I think of the Earth and my ability to walk on it, I think, ‘I’m going to go out into nature, enjoying everything beautiful, enjoying all its wonders.’ My heart is filled with joy. The Earth gives me so much.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Resources:
Dr. Cheryl Fisher, PhD, NCC, LCPC (MD), LPC (AZ), ACSc
fisherandassociates.com

Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community
plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/

Prompt #13:  Nature Mindset

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, coloring materials

Assignment: Before going outside, create a t-chart in your journal. Take stock of how you are feeling before going outside. List these feelings and thoughts on one side of your chart. Afterwards, find a safe spot to sit outside (backyard, porch, or by a window). Spend a moment resting. Fill the other side of your chart with any new thoughts and feelings that arise while you are enjoying nature. Looking at your lists. Has spending time in nature improved your mood, brought you peace, and/or energized you? Write and draw about the benefits you have experienced. If you found that spending time in nature brought you stress, document those feelings and attempt to trace their source.

Additional resources:

Journal Prompt: Create a how-to guide for enjoying nature. How would you prepare physically and mentally to be outside? Where would you go and why? What resources would you bring with you to enhance your outdoor experience?

Prompt #14:  Memory Lane

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, coloring materials, Internet access

Assignment: In your journal, describe your most significant experience with nature. Document the sights, sounds, smells, and other sensory elements of your experience in detail. Draw the aspects you remember most vividly. What feelings do you remember having during this experience? Did this experience have a positive or negative effect on your relationship with the natural world? Did this experience change you as a person?

Additional resources:

Journal Prompt: (1) Write a haiku about the experience you described. Instructions are provided in the additional resources. (2) Write a song about the experience you described, specifically regarding your feelings toward nature then and now.

Prompt #15:  Sound Mapping

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, coloring materials

Assignment: Find a safe spot to observe outside (backyard, porch, or by an open window). Close your eyes and settle into a comfortable position. Relax your breathing for a few moments. Begin to focus on the sounds around you. Note the distance, volume, pitch, and variation of each sound. Acknowledge the sounds that you are contributing to this space as well. Allow yourself to spend at least eight minutes quietly listening before starting your journal entry. Begin by creating a mark on your page that signifies your position, then build a map of the sounds around you. Use writing and drawing to record the distinct variations of each sound. A nature recording is provided in the additional resources for a comparative listening experience.

Additional resources:

    Journal Prompt: Can you imagine what a sound map of your favorite natural place would look like? How do certain sounds add value to a place? What would your map look like if you removed all of the natural sounds? Would that place maintain the same value to you

    We would love you to share your nature journal entries on CBF's Learn Outside Facebook Group!




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