Nature therapy and mindfulness activities.

For day 30 of 30 days wild we practised mindfulness in nature and enjoyed some sensory water play.

Being able to connect with nature is so important for our physical and mental well being. Many studies have shown that spending time outdoors in nature helps lower levels of  anxiety, stress and depression in both adults and children.

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Nature can be therapeutic in so many ways, it helps stimulate the senses, brightens your mood and take your mind of negative thoughts. Engaging in the immediate world around you helps you to to be present and mindful but it can also help you to switch off mentally and find a sense of peace. Its especially useful for helping children to calm themselves down and regulate their emotions. (You can find lots of ideas for calming sensory play activities below.)

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My children are different children outside they are more carefree and adventurous, we love exploring outdoor spaces and running wild and free in together. For me it’s the general sense of well being and happiness I get just from being outside and close to nature. The enjoyment of finding or learning something new and the therapeutic pleasure of nature photography.

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“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ― Henry David Thoreau

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There are so many different ways you can connect with nature from going on a nature walk or picnic to gardening, wildlife watching, meditating, forest bathing or just simply sitting and listening to the sights and sounds around you.

Find a comfortable place to sit or stand. Close your eyes take a few deep breathes and listen to your heart beat. Slowly tune into the environment around you by focusing on one sense at a time. feel the air on your skin and the grass or ground beneath your feet, listen to the sounds around you from rustling leaves to running water, can you smell the flowers, plants and grass. Take a few more deep breaths and open you eyes, look at the colours, patterns and textures around you. Can you see any insects, birds or signs of movement around you? What shapes are the clouds? Find a tree or plant and explore the different textures of bark or leaves, run your hands through grass or water engage all your senses.

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The Lost Peatlands Project have a brilliant mindfulness exercise sheet that you can download for free and use in your garden or out and about on a nature walk. It’s a great way to introduce children to meditation and mindfulness.

Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) also have free online sessions on mindfulness here to help anyone in Wales improve their well being by connecting to nature.

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Water play is also a great calming sensory activity for children of all ages. You can easily add extra sensory elements with scented herbs, flavoured oils, flowers and other natural materials. Lavender and mint are wonderfully calming herbs to use, but you could also use uplifting fresh citrus fruit slices and bright flowers. (You can find lots more sensory water play ideas here)

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Nature photography and nature art are both very therapeutic mindfulness activities which help reduces stress and anxiety by engaging you in your immediate surroundings. You don’t even need a proper camera for nature photography. A cheap camera phone is all you need to have fun snapping quick photos of the world around you.

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Or you could have a go at making some nature art using the natural materials you find around you. You could use anything from leaves, sticks and stones, to flowers (please don’t pick wildflowers only use fallen ones or flowers you have grown yourself) to acorns and pine cones. It’s surprisingly easy to make simple patterns like spirals, hearts and circles.

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Or you could use Nature art frames to play with, they are so simple to make and create some wonderful images. Its a great way to encourage children to explore different patterns shapes, colours and textures.

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We also find it really Rock balancing really therapeutic and again good for mindfulness.  It’s also a great activity for developing fine motor skills, co-ordination and concentration.

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You can also bring nature indoors for therapeutic and calming sensory play.

Lavender bean bags make soothing comforters to hug and good stress relievers to squeeze, fidget and fiddle with. The children can also enjoy playing games with them like they would with regular bean bags. They are really simple to make even if you barely know how to sew. You can find a handy guide to making these here.

Or you could make scented sensory play dough using calming natural material or essential oils like, lavender, mint, rose or chamomile. You can find a handy guide to making naturally scented play dough here.

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If you like this you might like to try:

Multi sensory ooblock

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Exploring trees and woods – Activity and ideas

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Colour matching activities and games

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