Fall is in full swing in the upper Midwest, and it’s the perfect time to cultivate a little Minnesota mindfulness.
Why *Minnesota* mindfulness, you may ask? It’s a unique thing to experience the changing of the seasons as dynamically as we do up here. And it’s something that affects everyone, whether they like to talk about it or not. From an Ayurvedic perspective, vata starts swirling and disrupting our peace which, paired with the gradually colder weather and bare trees, isn’t the most uplifting scene.
But, like a lot of things in life, it’s therapeutic to meet these sensations head on. One way in which I like to combat the autumnal imbalances is with forest bathing, or ecotherapy, or shinrin-yoku. You don’t have to be a nature lover to gain the benefits of this practice, or even live next to a robust forest. This mindfulness practice can be as simple as walking in any natural environment. It’s more about consciously connecting with what’s around you, feeling the ground beneath you, and deep, slow breathing.
Meet Me in the Woods: Minnesota Mindfulness
Some tips for forest bathing that I generally utilize. Feel free to add your own or modifications in the comments!
- Turn your phone off
Or leave it at home, or the car, or put it in a place where you won’t feel tempted to take it out and can’t feel the vibrations or hear it.
- Walk slowly; stop often
There’s no running forest bathing. Focus on the internal strength it takes to consciously walk at half a pace more slowly than you normally do.
- Inhale deeply, feeling sensation in the belly moreso than the lungs
Breathe into the diaphragm, it’s good for you. “Diaphragmatic breathing, or “belly breathing,” involves fully engaging the stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm when breathing. This means actively pulling the diaphragm down with each inward breath. In this way, diaphragmatic breathing helps the lungs fill more efficiently.” (from Medical News)
- If safe, close your eyes and isolate sensations
There are plenty of reasons why you might not feel comfortable closing your eyes when alone, but try to isolate sensation (and the easiest way to do that is to remove one of the five senses). Listen, smell, feel, hear.
- Notice the textures around you
What textures can you notice around you? What do the different barks of the trees, or shades of grass, tell you? What’s blooming and what isn’t?
- Be here (not there)
Most importantly: don’t think about the office. Don’t think about home, or the next thing on your calendar. Be. Here. Now.
Ready to go for a walk in the woods? Share your favorite trails and places to go for a walk!