Mindfulness is a walk in the Gardens
With so much happening in the world right now, it’s normal to feel anxious or worried.
To help alleviate these feelings, spending time in nature could be the answer. Research has found that spending time outdoors could help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. This could be due to the combination of regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.
In the current circumstances, we want to make the most of the time we can get outdoors after months of being confined to the same living space. With plenty of green open space, Birmingham Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to take some time out for yourself.
One way we can promote positive mental health is through practising mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at that moment – free from distractions or judgement, whilst being aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.
It sounds straightforward, but more often than not our thoughts wander and we lose touch with our body and what we are feeling. This then leads us to engage in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or worrying about the future – and then we start to feel anxious.
When we are mindful of our actions, we pay more attention to what we are doing. It’s the opposite of going through the motions, as instead, you are tuned into your senses, noticing your thoughts and emotions.
No matter how far we drift away though, mindfulness is right there to get us back to where we are in the present.
Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it.
How to be more mindful just by walking and breathing
We can practice mindfulness in a range of different ways. Nearly every task we perform each day can be completed more mindfully — whether it’s brushing our teeth, eating lunch, talking with friends or exercising.
Two ways in which we can practice mindfulness is through mindful walking and breathing. As two tasks we involuntarily complete each day, we tend to do these without much thought but both are equally powerful tools for managing our mental health.
In everyday life, walking is usually an established and habituated action that requires very little concentration, which is why it’s almost become autonomous, and it’s easy to slip into a semi-conscious state of walking where the legs are moving but the mind is thinking about something different altogether.
Walking meditation is a way to practice moving without a goal or intention. Mindful walking simply means walking while being aware while walking. Noticing each footstep as it hits the ground and feeling your breath as you breathe while you walk.
With so much space to explore, the Gardens is a great place to wander around while you practise mindful walking.
As you begin to walk around the Gardens, notice how the body feels. Just take a moment to observe and notice it. Start to notice what you see going on around you – where are you in the Gardens? Can you smell any flowers? Notice the colours and shapes around you.
Let these sensations pass through your mind without any judgement. Just let everything be as it is while you walk mindfully.
When you find your mind wandering bring your attention back to each footstep as it makes contact with the ground. Bring your attention to your breath and carry on walking.
There is a good reason why we often hear people say, “just breathe.”
Mindful breathing is a very basic yet powerful mindfulness meditation practice – studies have shown that the ability to focus attention on your breath can actually help you deal with everyday stress, anxiety and emotional ups and downs.
The most simplistic way to practice mindful breathing is by simply focusing your attention on your breathing—to its natural rhythm and flow and the way it feels on each inhale and exhale.
Focusing on the breath is particularly helpful because it serves as an anchor–something you can turn your attention to at any time if you start to feel stressed or carried away by negative emotions.
You can practice mindful breathing while standing, but ideally, you’ll be sitting in a comfortable position – there are benches around the Gardens for you to sit on, as well as the lawn.
As you notice your breath, keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Relax any areas of tightness or tension and just breathe.
Notice and relax your body.
Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body.
As you do this, you may notice your mind wandering and you may start thinking about other things. Just notice that your mind has wandered and then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence.
Visiting the Gardens
With acres of open space and less external distractions, Birmingham Botanical Gardens is an ideal location to practice mindful walking and breathing.
The Gardens are open to all visitors, but please note that tickets must be pre-booked ahead of your visit. This is to ensure we are able to monitor the number of visitors entering the Gardens at any one time.
Tickets can be booked via our website, click here to read our reopening FAQs.