One of the reasons I love nature mentoring is because it bridges the gap between mind, body & spirit.
By this I mean simply that nature awareness skills aren’t a purely intellectual or recreational exercise.
When done properly, your nature connection experiences will have massive personal benefits for mental & physical health & functioning, leading to greater success in all areas of life.
There’s a huge amount of research demonstrating the link between nature & mental/physical/spiritual well-being… Like this study on how nature helps people coping with ADD.
Ecopsychology is a real thing and we know it works.
But even with all the documented proof, I often hear from folks who are struggling to actualize those benefits in daily life.
It’s because simply believing something to be healthy, doesn’t guarantee you know how to effectively apply that information!
One of the most common complaints I hear from folks is they feel unable to slow down the constant mental chatter long enough to tune in and harmonize in a quality way with the natural world.
Maybe you can relate to this?
I’m trying to open my senses and connect with the land, but when I get outside, I just can’t stop thinking! I feel antsy, distracted and nothing seems to work.”
This is very common in the fast paced world.
In this case, you’re probably just missing one extra step in the process to activate the mind/body connection.
So today, I’d like to give you the steps to apply and hopefully get much better results from your rejuvenation time outside.
If you ever feel too stressed or busy to effectively settle in with nature awareness routines, this could be the key to your success.
And as an added bonus, if you’re already having good experiences as you explore nature, this can really help you take it to the level.
Do you ever have trouble shutting your brain off?
Would you like to have instant tranquility?
Let’s get started!
1. The Importance of Sensory Integration
Just before I share the exercise, it’ll be helpful to give a bit more background on how nature experiences interact with the human brain.
One of the the main reasons why nature is such a powerful context for healing in the human brain is because of sensory integration.
Sensory integration simply means using all of your senses together as one to observe your environment, solve problems & guide you into a more focused state of mind.
If you think back on your life, I’m sure you can remember experiences when you became grounded in your senses…
- It could be a moment when you become absorbed while playing or listening to music.
- Or an exhilarating moment of romantic connection with a special person.
- Or being moved into silence by the sound of bird song and beauty in the natural landscape.
These are all examples of sensory integration where the mental chatter falls into the background and you become primarily focused on experiencing the present moment.
This is pretty basic right?
It’s the physical connection between your brain and the outside world.
Each of your senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, etc) has a corresponding location in the brain that gets activated whenever you use them.
This is what I call, “external awareness” because your focus is externally oriented rather than caught up in thoughts, ideas or concepts.
You also have a part of your brain that deals with abstract thinking, intellectualizing, and mental chatter.
This is your “internal awareness”, and it’s another very important part of your experience because it enables you to think critically, make good decisions, and decide what you think about the world.
2. Balance Your Internal & External Awareness
If you look at the original context of human life and culture, we used to spend the vast majority of time focused on sensory activities… hunting, gathering, tending the land, tracking animals, watching, listening & observing.
But in recent times, most people have really shifted away from using their senses to more and more often working with abstract concepts, ideas, or technology.
We’ve gained a lot of benefits from this, but it also creates problems.
The result is that people today often live as much as 90-100% up in their head, with very little time spent watching, listening, observing with conscious awareness.
This creates a society of people who are disconnected from their senses and unable to shut off the mental chatter that causes all the stress & mental problems that are rapidly increasing around the world.
3. The First Step To Energizing The Mind-Body Connection With Nature
My first goal with nature mentoring is always to start by increasing the amount of time people spend doing sensory activities outside.
I’ve shared countless exercises & activities on this website that are all excellent ways to help you meet that goal.
If you’re new to these methods, there’s a very good chance that simply stepping outside and having the sensory stimulation of birds, plants, trees & weather is all you need to dramatically shift your state of consciousness.
A good percentage of people who actually try out the exercises & activities will find themselves almost immediately dropping into a profound state of peace & clarity.
But don’t worry if that doesn’t immediately happen for you.
It’s simply a sign that you need a little extra nudge to drop the mental chatter and open your sensory awareness.
Because here’s the thing…
Some people just have very hectic lives, with lots of mental chatter.
If expanding your senses in nature doesn’t immediately help you smooth out that mental activity, then I highly recommend you start with relaxation FIRST.
And this is where the mind-body connection comes in.
If your mind is too active to open the senses… you can simply start by relaxing your body FIRST.
5. Practical Exercise To Enhance Relaxation In Nature
Did you ever notice how when your mind is really busy, it shows up in your body?
You might have a tendency to fidget…
or look around nervously…
or hold tension in certain muscle groups…
These are all physical symptoms of a busy mind.
The amazing thing is that simply interrupting these physical symptoms will begin the process of relaxing your mind.
The simplest way to do this is with an exercise called “Progressive Relaxation”.
Do this immediately before going outside to spend time in nature, and you’ll find the entire experience becomes enhanced.
- Start by lying down somewhere and simply place your awareness inside your body.
- Spend a few minutes just feeling whatever is happening from head to toe.
- Notice your breathing and gently allow it to relax and slow down.
- Notice any feelings of tension or relaxation in your body and gently let them go.
- Next, slowly move your awareness through your entire body, starting with your toes, feet, legs, hips, pelvic region, abdominals, chest, back, neck and head, and focus on relaxing each section.
- Bring yourself to a state of physical stillness both internally and externally.
- See if you can feel your heartbeat and allow it to slow down and relax.
- Along with this physical relaxation, check inside and see if there’s any corresponding emotional relaxation. Very often 5-10 minutes of relaxation is enough to begin the process of letting the emotional stress dissolve. Just check if your state of mind has shifted at all, then continue.
- When you feel physically relaxed, next we’re going to stand up and slowly walk outside.
- Focus on staying grounded in this relaxed state of mind as you begin to move. If you notice tension coming back, simply stop and release it as best you can.
- As you step outside, notice the sharpness of your senses. Notice any bird and insect sounds that would normally be ignored.
- Find a favorite spot to sit down and observe quietly (The Sit Spot exercise is explained here).
- Continue relaxing your body physically & mentally as you shift your awareness external. Now practice your nature awareness exercises from this state of mind.
Try this out and see how it feels different.
Let me know what happens!