Mindful ways to move in the forest

woman laughing looking up in a forest

Move for your mental health

Does the thought of exercise leave you feeling exhausted before you’ve even pulled on your trainers? We know it’s not always easy to motivate ourselves to exercise, but we also know that movement makes us feel good! Find some inspiration below, then leave your stresses behind and join us in the forest to move for your mental health. 

two people walking through the forest

Wellbeing trails in the forest

Being active doesn’t have to mean sweaty workouts or daunting gyms; there are lots of different ways to move for your mental health.

Research by sportswear manufacturer ASICS found it takes just 15 minutes and 9 seconds of movement to begin feeling the mood-boosting effects.

The key to enjoying movement and reaping the wellbeing benefits is to be mindful, in a non-judgemental way, of how it feels to be moving your body, and to make a special effort to connect with your surroundings. As you move, ask yourself: can I feel the breeze on my cheeks? What does the ground beneath my feet feel like?

Try this:

Take some time just for yourself on a wellbeing trail. Follow the trail to take a mindful walk through the forest, where themed panels will invite you to pause, notice and connect with the forest environment. A forest wellbeing journal is also available to help you reflect on your walk or continue to enjoy some mindful movement at home.

Woman sat on grass in sunshine in yoga pose
Photo credit: Fraser Allen

Forest yoga

Spending time in the forest has been shown to boost the immune system and reduce cortisol levels, making us feel calm and relaxed. Similarly, movement can help us manage stress, improve sleep and mood, boost confidence and even manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. Combining the benefits of movement and forests can help us all let go of stress and strengthen our bodies and minds.

Join in with this forest yoga video, designed to help you feel uplifted and reconnected with yourself and your environment.  

Sign up for our email newsletters for more inspiration from the forest.

Man running

Mindful running

Studies have shown that being in the forest makes physical activity feel easier and more enjoyable compared to getting active indoors. 

Being active in nature just changes your state so it allows you to get yourself to a space where you’re more willing to be calm, to be connected and to just begin to process the madness of everyday life. - Anna McNuff

Try this:

Leave your headphones and fitness tracker at home. This run isn’t about numbers, it’s about you: your movement, your mind, your moment. As you run, focus on your connection to the earth. Feel the air as you breathe in and the breeze on your skin as you move. Smile, relax your shoulders and allow yourself to be soothed by the colours of nature and inspired by the strength of the trees surrounding you.

Brunette woman looks away from camera in the forest
Photo by Marisa Bukr Mizunaka on Unsplash

Time to cool down

Dr Alan Kellas, a psychiatrist interested in nature-based approaches to mental health, says:  

When we visit forests, our senses are engaged differently and our attention changes. We naturally become more mindful, our mood can settle if we’re anxious, or lift when we’re feeling low. Our imagination can be sparked and we gain a different perspective on our lives, projects and problems.

After all that activity, it’s time to stop and allow your heart rate to drop and your imagination to surge.  

Try this:

Use all your senses - sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste – to be aware of your surroundings. Allow yourself to breathe deeply. You’re now practicing ‘shinrin-yoku’ - the Japanese process of relaxation often called ‘forest bathing’. As you breathe, take a moment to think of one thing you’re grateful for and make a promise to come back to the forest to move for your mental health soon.

For more information and support on mindful activities and looking after your mental health, visit the Mind website:  

  • Get active, feel good – for information and guidance on how to get active, and the benefits for your mental health.
  • Nature and mental health – for the mental health benefits of nature and tips and ideas to try. Also provides information on formal ecotherapy programmes and where to find out more.
  • Mindfulness – for information on mindfulness, how to practice it and how it can help with mental health problems.
  • Information and support – for people experiencing mental health problems, as well as those supporting someone experiencing a mental health problem.

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