How tuning in to nature will give you inner calm

Giving ourselves time out to appreciate the wonders of nature - like this cherry blossom - will more

Giving ourselves time out to appreciate the wonders of nature - like this cherry blossom - will more than amply reward us for the effort spent. - Credit: Archant

To practise mindfulness, you need to stop, focus and experience the moment. The same could be said of birdwatching, says RSPB volunteer Diane Church.

'It's easy to stop noticing the world around us,' says Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. 'An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment.'

We're all caught up in our own thoughts: what we need to do, what we should have done. Quite simply, it's the stuff of day-to-day living. Particularly in modern society, which demands so much of us all.

Mindfulness is trying to put a stop to all those instinctual thoughts and worries that drive us through the day, so that we can pause, observe and feel the world around us.

To me, mindfulness – quite simply – means getting the most out of life. And what better way to reconnect with ourselves, than by connecting with the natural world?

I wholeheartedly approve of the principle that every aspect of life can be approached mindfully – whether eating a meal or walking up stairs. Yet how much more beneficial and rewarding mindfulness feels to me, when it's applied to something as wondrous and downright amazing as the natural world. You don't need to watch David Attenborough documentaries to know what I mean, just step out your front door and look at the world around you.

Pause and study the flower of a cherry blossom, which is in bloom everywhere at the moment. Have you every truly appreciated its scent, the delicacy of the petals or the vivid yellow of its spidery stamens?

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Stop and listen in the early morning to the songbirds in full voice. You may also be aware of traffic and voices and aeroplanes overhead, but that doesn't matter. You're observing the world as it is: man-made and natural and the ways in which they intermingle and interact all the time.

Sitting in my garden, feeling the cool air on my face, the damp cool grass under my feet and listening to the birds' chirping songs and the faint humming of insects, makes me feel more connected with the world around me, calmer and more relaxed. But it's more than that too. Mindful meditation makes me feel more positive about life in general, as I connect with the natural world by noticing the tiniest of details, so precious, but so easy to overlook.

Whether you know nothing about nature or are a seasoned environmentalist, we all have something to learn by trying to connect mindfully with the environment. Approaching nature in this way, it doesn't actually matter whether you know the name of the bird or flower or insect you're looking at. It doesn't matter that what you're looking you've seen many, many times before. What's important is your experience in the moment. You don't get this by looking online or in a book for more information, but by simply stopping to observe appreciatively for a short time out of your day.

Professor Williams says: 'Mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. It's about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.'

The benefits of mindfulness and mindful meditation have been recognised by health professionals in many different disciplines. It has its own pages on the NHS website and is regularly cited as a helpful practice for depression, chronic pain, social anxiety, trauma and stress. So why not give mindfulness a go? From one minute mindfulness Apps on your phone to the 250 or so books, DVDs and downloads available on the subject online – you won't be short of resources.

Personally, mindfulness is my therapy of choice every time. But a mindful appreciation of nature is so much more. It goes above and beyond other forms of therapy, renewing our sense of wonder at the miraculous world around us and allowing us to look at life with fresh eyes.