When was the last time you took time out of your day to take a moment and notice the world around you? It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to experience the present moment. Our children live in a world that is full of distractions all competing for their attention, making it harder than ever to take a step away from it all. Experts report that the average Brit spends around 90% of their day indoors, often at work or school. To combat this statistic and highlight the importance of mental health, we’ve pulled together five simple mindfulness activities that adults and kids alike can practice outside.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply means noticing the present moment; paying attention to your own thoughts, feelings and the world around you. By stopping to enjoy the here and now you can begin to let go of daily stresses and worries.
Practicing mindfulness in the outdoors is an experience that delights all the senses. The natural world is a safe space where you can learn through adventure, exploration, interaction and sensation. Many also see the outdoors as somewhere that can help us let go of worries, anxieties and daily stresses. It’s time to press pause on the busy lives we lead and give mindfulness a try.
The Safari Exercise
The Safari Exercise is a great way to introduce kids to mindfulness by turning an everyday walk into an inspiring new adventure. Before your walk tell your kids that you will be going on a safari: their aim is to see as many animals, birds, bugs and plants as they can. This exercise will allow them to use all their senses to find as many interesting and new things outside. Don’t forget the binoculars!
A similar exercise for adults is taking a mindful walk. This is where you take the time to notice things around you as you wander. Often, we are too fixated on the path in front of us and the steps we are taking; by stopping to take in the sights, sounds and smells of your surroundings, you’ll have a better awareness of the world around you and feel more connected to the present moment.
Magic Spots is a fun game to play with kids and a relaxing mindfulness tool for adults. This exercise is all about tuning into each of your senses individually, allowing you to become more aware of your surroundings. Find a quiet spot on your walk where you can be still. You can do this by yourself or with others.
Starting with sight, take a short period of time looking around you before stating five things that you can see. If you are with someone, share your experiences in turn to see what you notice. Then close your eyes and listen for a short period before again stating five things that you can hear. As you cycle through the senses take time to engage with what you see, hear, smell and feel. The warmth of the sun, the chirp of the birds, the sound of the wind, the trickle of water: all these sensory impulses will make you feel more grounded and aware. When you stop for a moment, who knows what you’ll discover outdoors.
Arguably there is no better way to connect with nature than to get your hands dirty. Kids especially enjoy the sensations felt from grasping soil, crunching leaves and touching tree bark. Mindfulness can be found in creating art with only what you find lying on the ground. See what stories and pictures can be told using just the natural items found around you. Creating art with your hands is an easy and fun way to connect with the natural world.
Green Fingered Gardener
UK gardening trends are evolving. What was once a popular pastime for retirees has now been embraced by all ages. You don’t even need a garden to create your own Eden; a few pots or house plants can grab your interest and connect you with the natural world. Spending a small amount of time each day tending to plants is a great way to quash worries and gain focus. Why not try growing veg too – we promise that adults and kids alike will delight in eating the tasty harvest.
Barking dog, galloping horse, imposing wizard… what do you see when you look up to the sky on a sunny day? Cloud watching is a fun and free relaxation technique that is guaranteed to spark the imagination. The science behind cloud watching is called Pareidolia; the tendency to see something known to you in inanimate objects or patterns. Simple pleasures can be found on sunny family walks by lying on the grass and watching white fluffy clouds float gently by, revealing secret shapes that might just surprise you. Definitely a fun activity for the kids!