Slow to a stroll Always in a hurry? While nothing beats exercising in the green gym, sometimes it’s good to slow the pace and absorb your surroundings. ‘Nature has an incredible ability to seep inside us, providing calm, comfort and serenity,’ says Sian Tucker, author of fforest – Being, Doing & Making in Nature (Kyle Books, £20). ‘So take a moment to slow down. Go for a walk in a park. Listen to the birds. Cycle along a river or go to the sea. ‘Being outside can boost your energy, it unclutters the mind and helps you re-connect to yourself.
Don’t Feel Guilty For Being Lazy This Holiday Research Shows Slowing Down is Good for Your Soul Go on, Give one Of These Soothing Activities a Try Photo Gallery
When you sit by a stream, listen to the water gliding over mossy boulders; when you walk through a sea of grass, listen to the bees buzzing, watch a buzzard swooping,’ says Tucker. For the ultimate slow pleasure, try the Japanese art of shinrin-yoku (‘nourished by nature’). Known as forest bathing, it’s proven to enhance physical and mental wellbeing. ‘It means to bathe all your senses in the beauty and the nature of the woods,’ says Tucker. Here’s how to do it.
Take a gentle walk in the woods, slowing down to tune into all your senses. l Stand and feel the ground beneath you. Walk slowly, breathe calmly and deeply, listen to the silence. l Smell the earth, notice the rustle of the leaves above, the light glimmering and twinkling, shadows dancing on the bark.
Raise your gaze Clouds are one of nature’s greatest wonders, and cloudwatching is the perfect antidote to our digitally- dominated life. Lying on your back and gazing up at the sky is a wonderful way to reconnect with nature, feed your imagination and restore your soul. Taking time out to marvel at how clouds constantly change and form can help put life’s problems in perspective and lift your spirits. ‘Gazing up at the sky will fill you with awe and wonder,’ says Tucker. ‘You’ll be humbled at the sheer beauty of the constantly moving shapes that filter the light and shift the colours.’ Sometimes rolling and fluffy, sometimes wispy and ethereal, other times brooding and melancholy, clouds reflect our changing moods and feelings.
Contemplating the why, the how, the where do they go is endlessly fascinating,’ says Tucker. Watching clouds drift across the sky is also a natural form of mindfulness, helping you connect with the moment and let worries fall away. Try detecting characters, or observing the different shapes of cloud you can spot. Or use cloud watching as a meditation, using the sky as your focal point, as you would use a flame to focus your gaze. Just as thoughts pass across your mind, so the clouds pass by. It’s a reminder that nothing is permanent and we only exist in the moment. TRY THIS l Lie on your back on a blanket. l Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, let your breath slow down. l Consciously relax each body part, allowing your muscles to soften. l Open your eyes, still relaxing, as you watch the clouds pass by, becoming aware of the vastness of the sky. l If thoughts arise, let them drift on, just like the clouds.
Be a dreamer Day dreaming gets a bad press. Often associated with wasting time and being lazy, it’s a habit we’re encouraged to grow out of as we become adults. But, there’s good news for all you dreamers out there – research shows that letting the mind meander can be extremely beneficial for your wellbeing and productivity. In fact, studies from the University of Central Lancashire have found that, far from being a distraction, daydreaming can help you become more creative. When you’re in a state of ‘passive boredom’ (you drift off in a dull meeting, for instance) and your mind wanders, the brain recruits complex areas – including the region associated with problem solving – and switches to creative mode and lateral thinking.
Mind drifting increases creative connections in the brain,’ says Tucker. ‘There are benefits to be had from whiling away the day, including helping to improve memory and attention span.’ By taking a mini brain break from a task, your unconscious mind is free to become active, recollecting past memories or projecting into the future, exploring ideas and bringing gathered information together to form new ideas and creative solutions, explains Tucker. Daydreaming is also proven to help lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and relieve stress, letting you become happier and healthier. So what are you waiting for, find that hammock and drift away!
On a train or bus journey, resist reading your phone or the newspaper. Instead, let your mind happily drift away. l Do the ironing or washing up without the radio or TV on. Yes, it’s boring – but that’s the point! You’ll be surprised how quickly the task passes – in a daydream state your sense of time is less acute. l If you’re in a job that over stimulates you, try self-hypnosis. Lie down, close your eyes, relax your muscles, then allow your mind to wander for 10 minutes.
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