Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware in a given moment, without judgment. Practicing a state of mindfulness is good for your physical and mental health. Being present and mindful can also enhance your connection with nature, which may further the benefits to well-being you may experience. Nature can help you achieve a state of mindfulness by providing you endless things to focus your attention on at any given moment. One easy idea for experiencing mindfulness is to consider taking a mindful walk in nature (real or imaginary/virtual).

Getting started:

  1. Find a space outdoors or indoors where you can walk slowly, and safely, without distractions. If you are unable to walk, that is okay, just close your eyes and visualize a natural space (including the Minnesota Zoo)!
  2. Decide which of your senses you would like to focus on during your walk. Sound can be a good place to start, but any sensation, including focusing on the sensations of your body, is great.
  3. Plan to spend at least 5 or 10 minutes focused on the sense you selected, while moving (in your head or real life) slowly through nature.
  4. Try to notice the senses, but allow them to just pass through. For example, if you are focused on sound, notice the birds, wind, traffic, or other sounds. Try to just allow yourself to be present in the moment with the sensations, not labeling them and not focusing too strongly on them. Just be with each new and changing sensation.
  5. If you notice your thoughts are wandering or it is hard to stay in the present moment with the sense you selected, consider switching to a different sensation. The goal is to stay in the present moment by experiencing nature around you.
  6. Consider writing about your experience or sharing it with a friend or loved one.

This practice allows you to truly experience the beauty and ever-changing characteristics of the natural world. Every time you do the exercise, even if you choose the same sensation to focus on and the same walking route, your experience will be different. The more we can focus on the present moment and the beauty of nature, the better for our well-being.

The Minnesota Zoo would love to see examples of how you used this activity at home! Please share pictures or comments via email at [email protected], and take less than 5 minutes of time to provide us feedback by completing this short survey.