Connecting with Nature: Tips to Become More Mindful This Summer

The change of seasons provides an opportunity for mental wellness.

I have often felt a sense of connectedness when in nature and often hear the same experience from clients. I remember being on top of a mountain and looking at the majestic scenery and feeling a part of not only nature and the planet, but also the universe.

I like the term “being right-sized.” In other words, “a grain of sand on a large beach.” Though one might feel insignificant in the larger picture of life, one might also feel more connected, belonging, and thus less separate, less isolated, less depressed, less afraid and less lonely.

Now that the warmer weather makes it more comfortable to be outdoors, there are many opportunities to explore nature and the environment. It also offers an opportunity to get out of your head, or to redirect your attention from thinking to being.

Be an Earthling! Become mindful by using your senses, including vision, hearing, smelling, and touching. Notice the abundance of color, scents and sounds. The green trees, the sound of the birds or wind, the smell of soil or plants.

Can you sense the Earth rotating? Can you be part of the Earth? Can the Earth be part of you?

If you find yourself being drawn to or lost in thinking, stop and redirect your attention to the here and now, to your surroundings. This may be called being present. Isn’t the environment a “present” or “gift?”

Think of activities which might involve being in the outdoors, like walking in the cool summer morning or evening, playing a sport outdoors, swimming, boating, camping or a picnic.

Know your limits and don’t forget to drink lots of water.

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Photo credit: Rachel Kramer (feature photo)

Douglass JudsonDouglass Judson, LMSW, CAADC, is an Outpatient Therapist at Cherry Health’s Leonard Street Counseling Center. He’s been a clinical social worker since 1992 attending graduate school in social work and practicing social work in Boston, Massachusetts until moving to Grand Rapids in 2008. He has significant experience in cognitive therapy and substance use treatment, and specializes in treatment of both mental health and substance use disorders. He also has significant experience in treatment specifically addressing the needs of the LGBT community.

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