Most people spend over 90 percent of their time indoors, with several of those hours spent looking at screens. When we step outside to take a walk, practice qigong or yoga, or simply meditate, we experience the benefits of reconnecting with nature. Many studies show the positive impact of spending time outside in nature for physical and mental health. The restorative practices of forest therapy and mindful outdoor experiences help us slow down and awaken our senses and appreciate the beauty and peace of the natural world.

As we walk, or practice qigong, we breathe in the aromatic chemical compounds emitted by trees known as phytoncides. Our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of white blood cells that fights tumor and virus-infected cells. Spending mindful time in nature also reduces blood pressure and reduces the production of the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. The stress-reduction benefits of time in nature also help our immune systems. For our mental health, spending time in nature may help to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

You can begin a practice of mindfulness in nature by allowing yourself time to walk slowly in nature and notice the details of the natural world. What sounds do you hear when you stop to listen? What can you smell? What is in motion, and what is still? Can you sense the presence of animals, the sound of waves, or the feeling of wind? What do you feel through the sense of touch about the texture of bark? Do you notice the scent of sage?

If you’d like to learn more about these practices, please visit our sister site Mindful Nature Guides provide mindful outdoor experiences led by trained guides in West LA. Experiences are typically one to two hour walks on local trails and include qigong practice, sensory immersive meditation, and sitting meditation. Walks end with a tea ceremony and optional sharing about the experience with the group.