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Mindfulness & Resilience

Jun 24, 2020 | Great Bay, New Hampshire, Informed Citizens, Reserves, What We Work For

A ‘sit spot’—a place to practice mindfulness and connect with nature—at New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve.

Whether you are staying at home or spending time in nature with safe social distance, Reserves—and the special places they protect—are here for you. During these trying times, one tool Reserves across the country are bringing to their communities is mindfulness: the practice of bringing nonjudgmental awareness to the present moment. 

Reserves such as South Carolina’s North Inlet-Winyah Bay and California’s Elkhorn Slough offer guided mindfulness videos you can follow from any place in nature, or even from home. Maine’s Wells Reserve and New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve encourage community members to develop “sit spots” by sitting in one place outside (yes, your own yard counts!) for a few minutes each day.

“No device, no book, no journal; just sit. Relax. Notice. Observe,” says Linda Grenfell, environmental educator at the Wells Reserve. “The sit spot is a basic practice for connecting with yourself and the world around you.”

Research shows that mindfulness can improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and promote physical health by improving immune response and reducing blood pressure. Done outside or with intention, it can also be a way to engage with nature. Studies show that even watching a brief nature video is a powerful way to feel awe, wonder, gratitude and reverence for nature—a connection promotes happiness, positive emotion, kindness, and other physical and mental health benefits.

During COVID-19, mindfulness is one way Reserves are helping communities connect with estuaries and promoting both environmental and human health.

Long-term, mindfulness may also support those dealing with the emotional stress of climate change. A survey of environmental professionals within the NERRS found that 80% of them regularly experience emotional burnout in their work. Many of them support communities who already face the very real impacts of a changing climate and uncertain futures. 

“”My experiences with mindfulness allowed me to see the natural world in new ways, with sharper focus, and greater appreciation,” says Steve Miller, coastal training program coordinator at the Great Bay Reserve, who has organized several mindfulness workshops. “When I use these activities with my colleagues, they become a way to reconnect us to the natural world we love and work so hard to protect.”

Mindfulness is one tool to help NERRS staff, their partners, and coastal communities rise to the challenge and be more resilient in the face of change.


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