Engaging in Mindfulness Outdoors (Safely)

Work From Home (WFH) Series No. 7

Last time, we discussed the importance of intention setting and how as the Province of Ontario begins to open up, we can use this time to focus on what we have been able to make time for, when perhaps we weren't making time for before the lockdown. We also mentioned the importance of mindfulness when establishing, and carrying out these intentions.

Mindfulness in different contexts can mean different things. For the sake of this post, mindfulness is defined as: a state of active, open, attention to the present, observing ones thoughts, and feelings without judging them as good or bad [1]. To line this up with our last post about being mindful of how you feel in the present moment, it can help you identify:

  1. when you are not in a comfortable space (physically, mentally, emotionally, you name it);
  2. when you are in a good space, and noting what that feels like;
  3. how to get from a 'not-so-good-place' to a good place [2].

It is from here that you can begin to form your intentions. 

Now that we have focused on a definition, and what mindfulness can do for you, let's talk neuroscience for a little bit. Psychological research on mindfulness is still in its early stages, but is growing. Even in the early stages of research, studies show that engaging in mindfulness physically increases brain volume in certain areas of the brain (their brains literally got bigger!) [2, 3]. To take this further, the parts of their brain that increased were the hippocampus and the temporoparietal junction, which are used for a variety of functions, but most notably, learning, emotional regulation, decision making, empathy and compassion [2, 3, 5, 6]. These parts of the brain are all helpful in introspection to set and follow your intentions.

As the weather gets progressively nicer and Phase 2 has begun to roll out in some cities across the Province of Ontario, we are learning in the news on how that would look like [4]. While we are coming out of lock down safely, the outdoors become more available to us with the change in weather. Studies have shown a positive correlation between mindfulness, positive thoughts or feelings and being outdoors [7, 8, 9]. Being 'outdoors' is a vague statement, to add clarity this can mean walking in parks or green space within the city. However, effects are stronger if you are able to get away from urban areas and hike in parks, forests, mountains etc. With plenty of greenery and wilderness [7, 8, 9].

To conclude, to improve your mental health and engage in mindfulness, consider going to green spaces or out of the city if you can, but also keeping in mind to always engage in safe practices outlined by your local health officials. When going outside keep a safe social distance from others and gain the benefits of engaging and reflecting in mindfulness from being outdoors!


[1] Mindfulness

[2] Neuroscience of Mindfulness: What Happens to your Brain when you Meditate

[3] Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Gray Matter Density

[4] Ontario doubling limit on gatherings, more businesses to reopen in next stage of COVID-19 recovery plan

[5] The role of the hippocampus in flexible cognition and social behaviour

[6] The role of the right temporoparietal junction in attention and social interaction as revealed by ALE meta-analysis

[7] 30 Minutes in Nature a Day Can Increase Mood, Well-Being, Meaning in Life and Mindfulness: Effects of a Pilot Programme

[8] Mental health benefits of outdoor adventures: Results from two pilot studies

[9] Natural Thinking

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