I once listened to a podcast about mindfulness running. A frequent music and podcast listener, the thought was a bit foreign to me at the time. I mean, who doesn’t want to escape into a song or a story while doing their workout.
The podcast suggested putting the music away, leaving the earbuds at home, and instead focusing on the movement of your feet, the sound of the birds overhead, the wind hitting the trees, the sun on your face, etc. It stressed the necessity of being focused on the present and not letting your mind wander. It is easy to let your mind drift to thoughts of events earlier in the day, or yet to come, when blindly listening to the same song you have heard 1000 times before. It is easy to grow anxious about that mounting to-do list, feel guilty for not calling that friend back, or begin to feel stressed about that dinner date with your spouse’s boss.
This podcast got me thinking about more than just mindfulness while running, but mindfulness while being outdoors. Research shows that people who spend more time living in the present tend to be happier. It is all that mind wandering that is causing us to be more stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.
Practicing Mindfulness Outdoors
Summer opens the door to many opportunities for our mental health—the sun offers an instant dose of vitamin D to brighten our mood. The increase in temperatures encourages us to get out of the house and be active—go for hikes, bike rides, have picnics, and spend time together as a family. By making the effort to practice mindfulness during this time we can further increase the benefits.
Being mindful grounds us. It is rejuvenating. It teaches us to live a little freer, to let go of the little things, to not get bogged down by all the things in our ever-stressful lives. It allows us to appreciate our breath, the world around us, the two-feet we have, a smile on a child’s face, the loving eyes of an animal, the simple, beautiful things that surround us on a daily basis. You know, all the things we are missing buried in our phones or daydreaming about coming events. It teaches us to slow down.
When we take these practices outdoors and add movement, we further take care of our physical health, ultimately benefitting our mental wellbeing. Light exercise increases our heart rate, encourages the release of happy hormones and lets us burn off steam, clear our heads, and return to our lives a little lighter. Not to mention that movement tends to ease body aches and pains over time by making us stronger.
So this summer take the time to disconnect, let go. Take advantage of the sun and the warm breeze. Get out there and move. Do some gardening, take a walk, go for a bike ride, whatever your heart desires. And, while you are at it take in the wonder of the beautiful world we live in. Focus on you and in turn reap all the benefits.
Author: Melissa Sauder, LPC
Melissa is a licensed professional counselor who loves helping women learn to empower themselves so they can lead a healthy, fulfilling life. Her therapy is spending time with her dog, a labradoodle named Sammy.