The downside of living in our technology-driven world is that we lack a built-in refuge in our daily routines. We grab our smartphones before we leap out of bed, and use it as a bridge to the time when we can plug in at our desks. We live at a frantic, information-seeking pace we can’t really sustain permanently without significant damage to body, mind, and soul.
More and more people are struggling to shift to a more mindfulness-centered approach to life, trading multi-tasking for living in the moment. Simply defined, mindfulness is that mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment and situation, while calmly noticing and accepting our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. Mindfulness is gaining popularity as a therapeutic technique, but it needs to be recaptured as a natural human capacity for everyone.
This shift to mindfulness is not easy. One of the best ways to begin is to get out of our normal habitat and step into the quiet of the wilderness. It does not require a trip to a far-away canyon or mountain range. Look for the nearest park or beach and set aside time daily to sit or walk in silence, absorbing the sights and sounds of the natural world around you. This is different from participating in an outdoor sport, which pits human endurance against nature – it is about being still, being in and with and part of the natural world around you.
Strive to lengthen your outdoor therapy time week by week until you notice that your mindfulness habit has carried over into your normal routine. Over time, you will notice the following benefits:
- Enhanced creativity
- More restful sleep
- Reduced tendency to worry or panic
- A more positive approach to life
- Improved focus
- Better self-esteem
- More patience and compassion for yourself and others
These benefits offer a positive improvement for anyone, but a daily dose of outdoor therapy can make all the difference to those struggling with mental illness or addiction, giving them the fundamental skills they need to break free of entrenched negative behavior patterns. This is why more and more rehabilitation and treatment programs are incorporating outdoor therapy into their approach, after having seen that nature can sometimes heal when traditional therapeutic approaches have failed.