Mindful movement

Mindful movement in nature - Exercise 4

When you move in nature, your attention recovers and mental well-being improves. In this mindfulness exercise you get to feel your body’s sensations during and after the movements. It is essential to feel the sensations of your body softly. Just try to notice your feelings neutrally without judgment. Remember to listen to the limits of your body. The movements must not cause pain.

1. Stand still and sense your feet as if they roots growing into the ground. Turn your attention to your breathing for five breaths. Sense how with every inhale your belly and chest expand while with every exhale they grow smaller.

2. Turn your attention to your shoulders and smoothly lift them towards your ears. Relax your shoulders and let them come down. Repeat a few times and then stop the movement. Roll your shoulders slowly from front to back a few times and then in the other direction. Stop the movement and root your feet. Focus on five breaths again.

3. Raise your left hand and slowly bend your left side to the right. Straighten your body and put your hand down. Repeat to the other side. Let your hand come down and feel the ground under your feet. Focus on five breaths.

4. Raise up on your toes and then lower your heels. Repeat this pumping movement a few times.

5. Bring your attention back to your breathing for five breaths. Root your feet into the ground. Notice how the movements felt. What did you notice in your body and mind during the exercise? How are you feeling after it? You can now finish the exercise.

MORE INFO: Mindful movement in nature increases psychological well-being

As children, we spent our breaks outside, but now as adults we have fewer chances to get out into the fresh air. Yet doing so is worthwhile, because taking a break in nature helps restore your attention after a period of deep concentration or a stressful situation,1 and physical activity can enhance attention as well as learning.2 So get up from time to time and take a break from studying by moving around in nature. Both your mind and body will feel refreshed.

This mindfulness exercise combines the well-being effects of the natural environment and the gentle observation of the body through mindful movement. Mindfulness means observing the present moment without judgement.3 Mindfulness helps you calm down, reduce stress and focus on the present moment. It has many beneficial effects on mental and physical health.4

Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, and mindful movement is one form of exercise. Mindful movement increases body awareness, which, in addition to perceiving movements, is the ability to sense body position and internal sensations such as your heartbeat and breathing.5 It has been observed that body awareness is connected to mental well-being.6 For example, body awareness helps strengthen self-regulation in stressful situations, set self-borders, increase acceptance and improve self-confidence and the sense of self.7 By consciously moving the body, we also affect our mind.

Nature and mindful movement have a range of effects on your psychological well-being. It has been found that light exercise in nature strengthens self-esteem and creates a positive mood.8 Just five minutes of physical exercise in nature can be enough, so going out into nature is worthwhile even on a busy day. Moreover, mindful movement performed regularly, such as yoga, and time spent in nature can contribute to being more satisfied with our body image.9,6 Enjoying nature does not require you to look a certain way, which can be liberating. Nature helps direct attention to the present moment, which in turn strengthens your connection with nature and thereby also improves body satisfaction.9

Maybe you yourself may have noticed that when you spend time in nature, you focus on experiential things, such as observing trees and plants or balancing on a rocky path. In mindful movement, it is essential to sense those sensations which the movement causes in you. It’s not important how the movement appears or how your body looks. It is important to acknowledge that the same movement can feel different at different times. Just as nature is constantly changing from day to day.

As we’ve seen, nature and mindful movement improve psychological well-being in many ways. When you need refreshment, go out into nature to move around! If you hit a wall with a project for your studies and you feel your concentration is slipping, go outside and visit the nearby nature for a while. Even a brief visit can improve your mood. The longer you more regularly spend time in nature or combine it with mindful movement, the more you may also notice an increased satisfaction with your body image. Mindful movement in nature is an act of well-being for your mind.


1. Kaplan, R. & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature. A psychological perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2. Fenesi, B., Lucibello, K., Kim, J. A., & Heisz, J. J. (2018). Sweat so you don’t forget: Exercise breaks during a University Lecture increase on-task attention and learning. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 7(2), 261–269. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jarmac.2018.01.012
3. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2004). Olet jo perillä: tietoisen läsnäolon taito. Helsinki: Basam Books Oy.
4. Lauricella, S. (2014). Mindfulness Meditation with undergraduates in face-to-face and digital practice: a formative analysis. Mindfulness, 5. 682–688 https://doi.org/ 10.1007/s12671-013-0222-x
5. Mehling, W.E., V. Gopisetty, J. Daubenmier, C.J. Price, F.M. Hecht & A. Stewart. (2009). Body Awareness: Construct and Self-Report Measures. PLoS ONE 4:5, e5614 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005614.
6. Tihanyi, B. T., Böőr, P., Emanuelsen, L., & Köteles, F. (2016). Mediators between yoga practice and psychological well-being: Mindfulness, body awareness and satisfaction with body image. European Journal of Mental Health, 11[1-2], 112-127. doi:https://doi.org/10.5708/EJMH.11.2016.1-2.7
7. Fogel, A. (2009). The Psychophysiology of Self-Awareness: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Body Sense New York & London: Norton.
8. Barton, J. & Pretty, J. (2010) What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis Environ. Sci. Technol. 44 (10) 3947– 3955
9. Swami, V., Barron, D., Todd, J., Horne, G., & Furnham, A. (2020). Nature exposure and positive body image: (Re-)examining the mediating roles of connectedness to nature and trait mindfulness. Body image, 34, 201–208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.06.004



Mindful movement