After a year-long course, which both inspired and challenged me to levels previously unknown, I heard this week that I passed my Level 3 Forest School instructor qualification. I’m incredibly proud of this because not only did it involve a gargantuan amount of work, but the practical element of the course i.e. sawing, carving, bill-hooking, setting fires etc. was worlds out of my skill-set and comfort zone.
You’d be forgiven for asking: why would I even sign up for such a course?
It all comes back to wellbeing, of course!
I’ll summarise in the following points:
- In the last few years, there’s been more and more research into the benefits of being outdoors in terms of our wellbeing. We’re talking changes in blood pressure, cortisol levels, blood sugar and more. I’m butchering the data here – if you’d like to read the fine-tuned details, click here.
- After numerous camping trips (and lots of arm twisting) I’d come to realise that active relaxation – whereby you’re focused on the essential actions of putting up a tent, cooking your dinner, building and lighting a fire – is actually an active form of meditation. I found myself ‘switching off’ and relaxing almost immediately, whereas usually, it takes me a while to stop thinking about my ‘to do’ list.
- Having forgotten most of what I’d learned as a former Girl Guide, I was curious – about trees, plants, animals, weather and the natural world in general. So too were the children I taught, curious and keen to know more. Curiosity causes us to look more closely, listen more intently; it lends itself perfectly to mindfulness.
- I noted myself that time spent outdoors, being curious and mindful, resulting in a natural increase in gratitude, appreciation and ease; not just for nature, but for everything.
With the course now completed and a shelter-building day already under my belt, I am more convinced than ever as to the benefits of Forest School practice (and just getting outside in general) in terms of improving mental health.
Now, I’m all about finding opportunities to take mindfulness outdoors, in order to increase curiosity, gratitude and mindfulness practice itself.
I’m equally keen to engage children in active meditation through tasks that require their attention to be in one place at a time (i.e. carving, making, crafting etc.)
But if all of this means very little to you right now, that’s the only advice I’m going to give you: to get outside, kids in tow if you have them.
And look, hear, touch, smell, feel the natural world around you.
That’s a better place than any to start.
Interested in some outdoorsy Mindfulness? Looking to book a Forest School Shelter-Building day? Call 07719330358 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to check options and availability.