After a long dark winter, it’s uplifting to see shoots of green poking through the earth and new flowers blooming in the garden. As the natural world seems to re-awaken around us, take a few moments to consider how you can refresh your mindful practice.
Longer days and more time spent in the sunshine provide a natural mood boost and getting outdoors – which becomes much easier as the weather warms up – is the perfect antidote to lingering winter blues.
Spring has always been a time for renewal, when we take stock and refresh. We’ve put together a list of all our favourite ways to do just that.
The smell of bread baking is a real tonic that will help restore your inner calm. In fact, studies have shown that baking has many therapeutic qualities and can help to relieve stress. The tactile nature of bread baking in particular can help you reconnect with the moment you are in.
Baking can be therapeutic on many different levels – the mindful actions of mixing the ingredients and allowing the dough to prove, while the act of kneading the dough can be a chance to clear your mind and enjoy some time to meditate. And once it’s baked you have a tasty reward to tuck into.
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Now the weather’s a little warmer and the days are a bit longer, put a spring in your step and head out for a stroll to dispel those winter blues. Gentle exercise can have positive effects on body, mind and soul – benefitting your heart and making you fitter after the winter months when many of us go into hibernation mode.
One of the benefits of walking at this time of year is the wonderful swathes of spring-flowering bulbs – daffodils, crocuses and of course bluebells. Look out for the most welcoming signs of spring as you go.
For a breath-taking host of golden daffodils, head to Wordsworth’s own Dora’s Field in Ambleside, Cumbria; while for bluebells try the ancient woodlands at Hackfall, North Yorkshire, or Brede High Woods in East Sussex. Take a look at this round-up of Britain’s best spring walks for more ideas.
The sight of fresh flowers on the kitchen table is always a welcome one, so why not gather together your favourite blooms and make beautiful displays to welcome the arrival of a brighter season too? Tulips, peonies and freesias are all springing to life.
Pick up a selection of your favourites and add foliage trimmed from your own garden – making a quiet moment to place flowers together in a vase will give you time to appreciate all the wonders of the natural world and is sure to have a brightening effect on both your home and your mood.
Beautiful bird song
At this time of year, the birds seem to be at their busiest, building nests and staking out their territory – along with that comes an increase in spirit-lifting birdsong. If the weather permits, find a quiet spot in your garden to sit and listen to the comings and goings of our feathered friends.
Close your eyes and combine it with a spot of mindful meditation to relax and de-stress.
You could even record the tweets and twitters and play it back later to remind yourself of your moment of calm in the garden. If you’re keen to learn who you’ve seen and heard flitting about your garden, the RSPB’s Bird Identifier is a great way to find out.
Watching the sunset
To simply sit in silence and watch as the day melts away and the sky turns to a wash of yellows and oranges with the setting of the sun is a humbling experience.
Studies have shown that awe-inspiring experiences, like your first spring sunset, help us get into a mindful mood and improve our wellbeing. They make us feel as though time is slowing down and can even help with decision-making, so why not head out at dusk and watch one of nature’s greatest shows?
The repetitive nature of painting with watercolours – dipping your brush into water, depositing it onto solid watercolour, touching the brush onto the palette to deposit the paint, rinsing your brush, then repeating and mixing in the palette until the desired colour is created – can have a soothing effect on the mind.
Zone out and focus on nothing but your brushstrokes, creating some gorgeous artwork for your home at the same time. Get started with this beautiful botanical watercolour project from Emma Mitchell.
As we wave goodbye to winter, we can welcome a whole host of new ingredients to the kitchen as fresh produce comes into season. Engage your senses and notice the colours, smells, textures and tastes of a dish you create as you eat slowly.
Doing this helps us to connect with our carefully prepared food and our bodies and has the added bonus of teaching us to stop eating when we’re full.
Listen to our mindful eating podcast with Francine Russell to get started.
Getting into the garden
Spring is the time when our gardens start to reawaken. Time in a quiet garden, tidying away the winter detritus and getting it in shape for spring can help you regain perspective and inner balance.
Spending time outdoors has been proven to have all-round benefits – studies have shown that spending time in nature can improve mental health and gardening has been used as therapy for depression for many years.
On top of this, by being outside, you will boost your vitamin D absorption. A 2010 study by the University of Essex found that the presence of water increased feelings of wellbeing – perhaps it’s time to get that water feature installed…
Find a few more tips on how to garden mindfully here.
It may sound cliché, but there’s something about spring that makes us want to fling the windows open wide, let in the fresh air and have a good old clear out.
Make the most of this seasonal exuberance to go through your wardrobe, kitchen cupboards, bookshelves and all those other nooks and crannies where unwanted items can gather and discard anything you no longer need.
Sort it into piles to go to the charity shop, friends, on eBay, or in the bin. Enjoy the process of letting go; there’s nothing like that feeling of release when you free up space in your home – and your head!
Photos by Ben White, rawpixel, Stephen Vance, Annie Spratt, Shannon Litt, Petr Vyšohlíd, Brooke Lark, Emiel Molenaar and wu yi on Unsplash.