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Get Outside

We often hear that getting out in nature is an excellent way to

improve our body and to clear our mind or become mindful, even, and to rejuvenate. From my experience, this is so true. I take a walk every morning, at least for 30 minutes and am so grateful for the beautiful walking trail I access through my neighborhood, without it, I'd be walking on neighborhood streets, which aren't awful, they just don't offer the natural beauty the trail does.

The trail is beautiful in most parts, and now as we hit mid-summer, the foliage is exquisite….but only when I pay attention and am mindful of it. That means, taking it all in. My routine doesn’t always allow for that because I am also a podcast listener while walking and often forget to pay attention.

It was last week when my child was in town and reminded me of the beauty of our area. They commented on the crepe myrtles in full bloom, creating canopies of pinks and purples throughout the neighborhood. Did you know that crepe myrtles bloom for 100 days in the summer, and that they come in a variety of colors from white to pinks and purples? 100 days to enjoy their glory, amazing.

But what’s even more amazing is how often I overlook those gorgeous trees, or get annoyed by them because of the spent blooms littering the walkways and sticking to my shoes (small price to pay for their splendor).

The point is, that being mindful when outside has its benefits – huge benefits. For one, being in nature, even for a brief time has the ability to reduce stress. When you pay attention, when you look for the beauty, listen for the sounds of nature and feel the sun and wind, your nervous system calms down, your cognitive center rests and your mood is likely to get better. And then on top of that, it can reduce one’s heart rate (if you’re going for that), decrease the stress hormone cortisol, and it can lower your blood pressure.

Here's a meditation I use when walking outside. I use it when I feel the need to get out of my head and to get more in tune with the NOW or presence. While walking,

1. Identify five specific and distinct things.

2. Then identify four things you can touch or feel.

3. After that identify three things you can hear.

4. And then find two things you can smell.

5. Finally find one thing you can taste.

This is considered a grounding exercise, and you can do it anywhere, not just outside, however, it’s such a wonderful experience when doing it in nature. And it activates all of your senses, helping you to focus on the present moment while sidelining anxious thoughts or internal chatter.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you. I think you’re going to like it AND find it very useful!

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