Exploring the Mindful Power of Nature
This world is increasingly fast-paced and digitally driven so the importance of connecting with nature is essential to support our physical, mental, and emotional balance.
For the developing mind and body, this is especially true for children’s health.
Encouraging children to spend time outdoors and engage in mindfulness and meditation practices in natural surroundings offers many benefits that extend far beyond physical well-being.
Even National Geographic magazine supports the impact of ‘forest bathing’.
Mindfulness and Nature – the research and benefits
Nature as a Mood Booster – research consistently highlights the positive impact of nature on children’s mental health. Dr. Mary Carol Hunter, a professor at the University of Michigan, asserts, “Nature is fuel for the soul. Often when we feel depleted, we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” Interacting with natural environments has been linked to improved mood, reduced stress levels, and increased overall well-being.
Enhancing Cognitive Abilities – studies have shown that exposure to nature enhances children’s cognitive abilities. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that spending time in nature significantly improved attention spans and increased creativity in children. Dr. Rachel Kaplan, a prominent environmental psychologist, suggests, “Nature provides the right environment for developing skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making.”
Developing Resilience and Coping Skills – nature offers a unique platform for children to develop resilience and coping skills. Spending time in outdoor settings allows children to encounter challenges, overcome obstacles, and develop a sense of self-efficacy. According to the American Psychological Association, exposure to natural environments fosters emotional resilience and helps children cope with stress and adversity more effectively.
Nature and Children with Trauma
For children who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the therapeutic power of nature becomes even more profound. The healing potential of natural environments can provide a much-needed sanctuary for these children, offering respite from the challenges they may face.
Research suggests that exposure to nature can mitigate the impact of ACEs and promote resilience in children. Nature’s inherent qualities of calmness, beauty, and stability can help soothe the nervous system – emotional distress, reduce anxiety and create a sense of safety and belonging.
The sensory experience of the natural world can engage their senses and provide a positive and empowering outlet for self-expression and growth. By immersing themselves in the natural world, children with ACEs can feel more grounded and their connection to nature naturally reduces the hypervigilant state of their nervous system due to trauma.
Mindfulness and Meditation Activities in Nature:
Encouraging mindfulness and meditation in nature can be a healing experience for children. Here are 4 easy suggestions of how to guide them in practice:
Nature Walks: take children on guided walks, encouraging them to observe and appreciate the natural world around them. Encourage mindful walking by focusing on each step, noticing the sensations in their body, and paying attention to the sights, sounds, and smells of the environment.
Outdoor Yoga or Stretching: engage young people through simple yoga poses or stretches in natural settings. Encourage them to synchronize their movements with their breath and cultivate a sense of presence and calm as they try to ‘feel’ the energy of the trees, ground, and flowers.
Tree Meditation: one of our favourites as it is so grounding! Find a quiet spot near a tree. Encourage children to sit or lie down and focus their attention on the tree. Encourage them to notice the details of the tree—the texture of the bark, the movement of the leaves, or the sounds it makes when the wind blows. You can also encourage them to lie down next to the tree and look up through its leaves, watching them move and ‘dance’ above the breeze and how the light changes. Invite them to connect with the tree, imagining that the tree absorbs their out-breath and the tree ‘gives’ them their in-breath.
Nature Journaling: provide children with a journal and art supplies, and encourage them to write down or draw their observations and reflections about nature. Journaling can help them connect with their emotions and enhance their self-awareness as they process their thoughts and feelings in a calmer environment.
‘Turbocharge’ their Meditation Practice
When it comes to practicing meditation in nature it amplifies the benefits and offers a ‘turbo-charged’ experience that can deeply resonate with young minds. With each breath, they can tap into the energy and serenity that nature effortlessly provides, nurturing their young minds in extraordinary ways.
Connecting Children to Nature
As parents, educators, and caregivers, it is essential to prioritise children’s mental health by fostering a deep connection with nature. The benefits are not only limited to improved mood and cognitive abilities but also include developing resilience, coping skills, and a sense of wonder. Join in as you encourage children to step outside, breathe in the fresh air, and take a journey of mindfulness and meditation in the embrace of nature.
At Connected Kids, our program is designed to give you the tools to teach young people how to connect with nature using mindful skills and meditative practices.