Ann Ward is a meditation coach and forest therapy practitioner and guide. She delivers immersive mindfulness experiences and also runs retreats at Bluebell Lane Glamping, Mullaghbawn; Fairy Glen and Rostrevor Inn; Kribben Cottages, Silent Valley, Mournes and Killeavy Castle Estate.

1. You have your own personal mindfulness toolkit with you everywhere you go

The natural resources of your breath, body and senses — when you focus your awareness on each of these, they become anchors to support you to connect to the present moment. In the present moment, fear and anxiety do not exist.

Body: We are so in our heads most of the time, we forget we have a body. Our minds are normally focused on thoughts of the past or the future which we have no control over.

Our body is the most immediate and powerful instrument we have to connect to the here and now. Connect to the earth wherever you are through your feet, ideally in a natural environment, but could also be in a busy supermarket.

Place your awareness on the soles of your feet. Notice any sensations, any feelings of warmth or cold, feel the weight of your body as you stand still.

Notice each footstep as you move and feel the weight of your body with each footstep, moment by moment, footstep by footstep, connecting more deeply to the precious present moment.

Breath: Follow the natural rhythmic flow of your breath, from your lower tummy. Breathing deeply in through your nose and breathing deeply out through your mouth, if this is comfortable. The deeper the inhalation, the deeper the exhalation and the deeper the relaxation.

To help you focus, you may want to silently and inwardly repeat on the inbreath, ‘I am breathing in’ and on the outbreath, ‘I am breathing out’ until you get used to consciously following your breath. When you are outside, imagine that you are breathing with the wind.

Senses: These are another natural resource to support our connection to the present moment. The skin is the largest organ in the body — we experience the world through our pours and through touch. When in nature, touch the plants, trees, soil; observe the light, colours, shapes and movement around you, look up and all around you; listen to the sounds close by and far away; notice any smells; taste the air or rain. Mindful food shopping, cooking and eating your favourite meal are wonderful ways to immerse yourself through your senses.

2. Conscious breath is a meditation

When you follow the natural movement of your breath, ideally breathing deeply in through your nose and breathing deeply out through your mouth.

3. Summer is the perfect season to practise mindfulness

A feast for your senses as new life evolves all around you. Each day, notice the emerging buds on trees and plants and the changes in bird songs.

4. Practise mindfulness through food

One of the best ways to practise mindfulness and to nurture your nature connection is through growing food. There is a magic in watching seeds become plants, especially ones you can eat. Some of the easiest foods to grow are watercress and spinach.

5. All thoughts are energy

On average, we have 60, 000 thoughts a day. Most are about the past or the future, which are a waste of our energy as we have no control over the past or the future.

Most thoughts never come true. When you are having a worrying thought, think about it on a scale of one to 10 (where one is unlikely and 10 is very likely). How likely is it that thought will come true? You will be surprised!

6. You can change your thoughts at any time

When you deepen your awareness of your thoughts and learn to observe them, you can also learn to change them. If you notice that you are having regular negative thoughts, you can choose to change them to more positive thoughts through altering your focus to things that make your happy, grateful and kind, or focusing on exactly what is happening in the present moment.

7. The sky is a natural canopy to practise mindfulness

Our mind is like the sky and the clouds your thoughts. It is nature’s reminder above our head that our thoughts will come and go, moving in and out just like your breath.

8. Mindfulness boosts creativity

When your mind rests during mindfulness practise, there is more space between your thoughts to allow room for creativity, wisdom and intuition to be nurtured.

9. Mindfulness practise can help to prevent stress, as well as supporting stress reduction

This happens when you develop an awareness of how to use your natural resources of the breath, body and senses to connect more to the present moment and the environment around you. You can use these skills to help prevent stress from getting into the body, especially before entering stressful situations — e.g. taking some deep mindful breaths.

10. Mindfulness can help build relationships

Through listening and observation, we can develop a greater awareness and understanding of those around us. We can also learn to use our breath to support us in times of conflict, i.e. instead of reacting to a situation, pause, breathe and then respond, allowing space and new oxygen to support our response.

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