The Art of Eco-Mindfulness
Eco-mindfulness involves mindful awareness practices where you tune your senses into the “felt presence” of your immediate experience while exploring in nature.
Setting the intention to be fully present so you can mindfully observe the patterns, symmetry and interconnected design of nature is an excellent way to awaken your senses and feel more alive.
When we stop the endless labelling, comparisons and judgements of compulsive, analytical thinking, the world around you becomes much more fascinating and alive to your senses.
Eco-mindfulness helps you developing your curiosity, expand your senses and explore your interconnectedness with your living environment.
While the core of eco-mindfulness is direct sensory experience, consistent practice of mindful awareness and time spent in nature help you live a more connected life in closer harmony with natural rhythms.
While mindfulness has become popular in wellness industry and in corporate circles for increasing productivity and reducing anxiety, in the Buddhist tradition mindfulness is really about cultivating awareness of your interdependence with your environment.
The Buddha spent most of his life as a teacher wandering in India, teaching in the forests and meditating under trees. It was meditating under the great Bodhi tree that he became enlightened.
To awaken your original nature, the practice of eco-mindfulness can help you go beyond thinking and learn to the sensory experience with more feelings of awe, wonder and aliveness.
Your environment matters. Practicing eco-mindfulness in the forest or walking the park whenever you will help you relax and ground yourself in the living present.
It is common for most of us today to spend 90-95% of their time indoors so more time spent outdoors can be highly beneficial for your mind, body, and spirit.
You can make the practice of eco-mindfulness playful and fun by exploring the nature in your backyard, at your favorite park, or in the forest where you can breathe fresh air, get some exercise and feel a sense of embodied interconnectedness with the more-than-human world.
The Scientific Research Into Mindfulness In Nature
There is a growing body of research showing that mindful awareness in nature increases feelings of awe and wonder, which diminishes self-consciousness, reduces rumination and relaxes the body physiologically.
Spending time in nature is good for your physical and mental health. Paying closer attention to your experience and feelings through eco-mindfulness makes you feel more connected and alive.
When we learn to let go of the label, judgements and comparisons of the analytic mind, the world around us becomes more vivid, engaging and alive.
Here are some scientific studies into the connection between mindful awareness and nature.
“We tested the possibility that mindfulness instruction would enhance mood during nature exposure in an urban setting. Participants were randomly assigned to a 20 min guided walk outdoors, outdoors with mindfulness, or indoors. Participants who walked outdoors reported substantially more nature relatedness and better moods than those who walked indoors. Participants who also received mindfulness training reported greater awareness of their surroundings, stronger connectedness with nature, and less negative affect, even compared to outdoor walkers without mindfulness instruction.”
The results highlight that notions such as ‘sustainability from within’, ‘ecological mindfulness’, ‘organizational mindfulness’, and ‘contemplative practices’ have been neglected in sustainability science and teaching. Whilst little sustainability research addresses mindfulness, there is scientific support for its positive influence on: (1) subjective well-being; (2) the activation of (intrinsic/ non-materialistic) core values; (3) consumption and sustainable behavior; (4) the human–nature connection; (5) equity issues; (6) social activism; and (7) deliberate, flexible, and adaptive responses to climate change.
Ecopsychologists have suggested that mindful awareness of our interdependence with nature may not only help us regain our lost, ecologically embedded identity but may also help us behave more sustainably, closing the documented gap between pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. We suggest more speciﬁcally that, in contemporary consumer culture with its dearth of pro-environmental norms and cues, mindful attentive-ness may be necessary to develop sustainable habits. To explore the connection between mindfulness and sustainable behavior, we measured 100 adults attending a Midwestern sustainability expo on two mindfulness factors: acting with awareness and observing sensations. As predicted, acting with awareness was signiﬁcantly positively correlated with self-reported sustainable behavior. This ﬁnding is consistent with the idea that, until sustainable decisions become the societal default, their enactment may depend on focused consideration of options and mindful behavior.”
“Growing globalisation and climate change are challenging the sustainability of our societies. It is now clear that climate change and its devastating impacts cannot be resolved by new technology or governance alone. They require a broader, cultural shift. As a result, the role of human beings’ ‘inner dimensions’ and related transformations is attracting increased attention from researchers. Recent advances in neuroscience suggest for instance that mindfulness can open new pathways towards sustainability. However, the role of mindfulness in climate adaptation has been largely ignored. This paper is the first exploratory empirical investigation into linking individuals’ intrinsic mindfulness (as opposed to outside mindfulness interventions) to pro- and reactive climate adaptation. Based on a survey of citizens at risk from severe climate events, we explore if, and how individual mindfulness is correlated with climate adaptation at different scales. The results show that individual mindfulness coincides with higher motivation to take climate adaptation actions or to support them, especially actions that are ‘other-focused’ or support pro-environmental behaviour. Mindfulness may also corroborate the acknowledgement of climate change and associated risk perception, and it may steer people away from fatalistic attitudes.
“Based on the notion that mindfulness incorporates heightened awareness of bodily sensations, we suggest an indirect path from mindfulness to ecological behavior that is mediated through individual health behavior, such as improved nutrition and increased exercise. This indirect path is corroborated with two online studies where mindfulness, personal health behavior and ecological behavior were assessed. We conclude that increased mindful awareness of momentary experience indeed favors more healthy lifestyles, which in turn relate to increased ecological behavior beyond personal health benefits. The findings support an agreeableness of personal and planetary health behavior and open up a path for environmental educational interventions based on mindfulness practices and personal health gains.”
“Current literature supports the comprehensive health benefits of exposure to nature and green environments on human systems. The aim of this state-of-the-art review is to elucidate empirical research conducted on the physiological and psychological effects of Shinrin-Yoku (or Forest Bathing) in transcontinental Japan and China… Nature therapy as a health-promotion method and potential universal health model is implicated for the reduction of reported modern-day “stress-state” and “technostress.”
“Research has proven that both mindfulness training and exposure to nature have positive health effects. The purpose of this study was to systematically review quantitative studies of mindfulness interventions conducted in nature (nature-based mindfulness), and to analyze the effects through meta-analyses. Electronic searches revealed a total of 25 studies to be included, examining 2990 participants.”
“Natural environments offer a high potential for human well-being, restoration and stress recovery in terms of allostatic load. A growing body of literature is investigating psychological and physiological health benefits of contact with Nature.
“Modern, sedentary lifestyles and stressful urban living are leading to high levels of poor health in Europe that medicine alone cannot combat. As a partner in the ‘Forests, trees and human health and well-being’ project, Forest Research explored how natural places and spaces contribute to, and could improve, the health and well-being of people in Europe.”
This study systematically reviewed forest therapy programs designed to decrease the level of depression among adults and assessed the methodological rigor and scientific evidence quality of existing research studies to guide future studies. We concluded that forest therapy is an emerging and effective intervention for decreasing adults’ depression levels. However, the included studies lacked methodological rigor. Future studies assessing the long-term effect of forest therapy on depression using rigorous study designs are needed.”
“Phytoncides, such as isoprene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene, were detected in the forest air. These findings indicate that the day trip to the forest park also increased the NK activity, number of NK cells, and levels of intracellular anti-cancer proteins, and that this effect lasted for at least 7 days after the trip. Phytoncides released from trees and decreased stress hormone levels may partially contribute to the increased NK activity.”
“The term Shinrin-yoku was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982, and can be defined as making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest. In order to clarify the physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku, we conducted field experiments in 24 forests across Japan.
The results show that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments. These results will contribute to the development of a research field dedicated to forest medicine, which may be used as a strategy for preventive medicine.”
This study investigated the psychological (perceived restorativeness, subjective vitality, mood, creativity) and physiological (salivary cortisol concentration) effects of short-term visits to urban nature environments. Seventy-seven participants visited three different types of urban areas; a built-up city centre (as a control environment), an urban park, and urban woodland located in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Our results show that the large urban park and extensively managed urban woodland had almost the same positive influence, but the overall perceived restorativeness was higher in the woodland after the experiment. The findings suggest that even short-term visits to nature areas have positive effects on perceived stress relief compared to built-up environment. The salivary cortisol level decreased in a similar fashion in all three urban environments during the experiment.
“The report, commissioned by The Mersey Forest explores the evidence of health benefits associated with different forms of mindfulness in forest contexts. Forms of mindfulness from MBCBT through to the Japanese concept of forest-bathing, and including forest walking are examined. These approaches are all shown to improve a number of quantitative and qualitative measures of physical and mental health and wellbeing.”
“E.O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis predicts that people’s psychological health is associated with their relationship to nature. Two studies examined associations among nature connectedness, well-being, and mindfulness in samples of undergraduate students while socially desirable responding was controlled. Significant associations emerged among measures of nature connectedness and indices of well-being (in Study 1 and Study 2) and mindfulness (in Study 2). Results are discussed in relation to possible mediators and moderators of the association between nature connectedness and mental health.”