Meditation expert and mindfulness coach Sam Squire shares how you can support your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health by connecting with nature and practicing mindfulness – and just how to make the most of the warmer months.

Taking care of ourselves doesn’t need to be time-consuming and complicated. A simple nature walk can improve all aspects of our wellbeing and return us to our natural rhythms, in turn reducing stress and allowing us to live our lives with a greater sense of peace and presence.

Here is a holistic approach to how nature can support all aspects of your wellbeing.

1. Physical Health

Going for a walk outside in nature can increase our heart rate, which strengthens our heart and trains our bodies to circulate oxygen and blood more efficiently. The sounds of birds chirping and water flowing in nature have such a calming effect on us when we engage in physical activity, such as walking, without our nervous system being as activated as it would be in the city.

2. Mental Health

Being in nature allows us to breathe in fresh air that’s far less polluted than being in a big city, which increases oxygen levels in the brain, in turn boosting our levels of serotonin – an important hormone that helps stabilize our mood. Nature also encourages us to slow down our breathing, to pause and mindfully take in the aroma of nature. When we take short, shallow breaths, we activate our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). When we take long, slow and deep breaths, we gently turn up our parasympathetic nervous system (rest or digest). How we breathe directly impacts our nervous system and therefore impacts how we think and feel. Being in nature is a natural and effortless reminder for us to slow down our breathing and support our mental health.

3. Emotional Health

Nature is a safe place to process challenging emotions. With fewer triggering stimuli such as sirens and traffic noise and fewer distractions like phone or email notifications we’re able to relax and focus on ourselves. Clear your mind and be present with your thoughts – you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to work through what’s on your mind, free of judgment and supported by the ease of nature.

4. Spiritual Health

Nature can be spiritual, but its healing benefits are universal regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs. If you turn your attention to the simple things the outdoors have to offer, you may be surprised by the positive impact your surroundings can have on your mind, body and spirit. Depending on what your beliefs are, nature can support people’s spiritual health in many ways. For example, take the four elements – water, air, fire and earth. The commonality among many cultures is that the balance among the four elements supports our spiritual health. Simply the ritual of drinking more water can connect us with nature and support our health. Nature can connect people with their own sense of spirituality, which for some people can be a guide to their purpose and direction in life, which can help ease stress.

Nature is our greatest invitation to slow down, to welcome the aliveness of our senses and experience the present moment fully. When we are fully present and at peace in nature, stress can melt away effortlessly and we can support all aspects of our wellbeing.