CAMPING IN NZ | 16 simple mindfulness practices

I can’t say I was ever an outdoorsy girl….. until I met my husband. To be honest, up until that point, I couldn’t have thought of anything worse than camping. Between the unpredictable weather of Ireland, my fear of straying too far from a toilet and just my sheer lack of exposure to it, it didn’t appeal to me at all!

Having a partner who was confident in what he was doing and patient and compassionate to any hesitations I had, made the transition a lot easier though… and it’s honestly one of my favourite ways of spending time now!

“You just need the right clothes and equipment! Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”

It’s like an immersive mini mindfulness retreat… and it’s free! Having no phone reception or other distractions, forces you to pay attention to any uneasiness and tension in your body and mind, and use all of nature’s resources to help unravel it!

As someone you is quite sensitive to stress and tension, especially when my inflammation is high and my body is in a prolonged state of dis-ease, I need to make resetting a big priority throughout my week. And camping really helps me achieve that!

After what felt like the longest winter, I was craving the outdoors again. We took the first opportunity to grab our tent and hit the road in mid-Spring, back in October. And boy, did we need it!!

I got some amazing footage on that trip that I have pieced together and posted to my YouTube channel. We never forget how lucky we are here to live in such a beautiful, safe place and I’m always keen to share it with anyone that would like a piece of it.

The video inspired me to write this blog post. It’s not until I watched it back that I realised all the ways I apply mindfulness practices. Practices that can be applied to your daily lives, not just camping.

I have listed the practices below for you to try, but feel free to check out the video if you would like some more inspo!

16 simple Mindfulness practices:

  1. Set your intention and manage your expectations – Intention is an important element of practicing mindfulness. Once we are aware of what we need, we can be purposeful with our time and energy to meet that need. This practice is especially useful for a couple. Setting an intention for yourself helps to create clear communication. It is important to respect your partner’s intention and manage your expectations of their attention. For us, our weekend resets always start with individual alone time doing what we need to do to unwind and create capacity, before we can come together and connect. You cannot connect when your stress bucket is full. So prioritising decompression, in whatever form you need (no judgement), is an investment for the rest of your time together.
  2. Cold water immersion – Whether it’s a dip in a lake or a cold shower at home, exposing our nervous system to a range of temperatures has been proven to build our immunity and resilience. Using our breath to control the initial shock to our body, is the key to building resilience to exposure. It also helps us get out of our heads and back to paying attention to our bodily senses. (Note to self – it’s always better with booties on the uneven surface of the lake!)
  3. Gentle stretches/yoga – Like a lot of us today, I spend a lot of time sitting at a desk on a laptop so I’m more prone to neck and shoulder tension building up. Gentle stretches allow me to check on that tension and release it before it builds up more. Our minds feed off the information in our body, so a calm body is important for a calm mind. This is especially true if you have gut issues and neck tension. The vagus nerve runs from the gut to the brain through the neck, so any tension built up around it can affect the function of the nerve and the gut.
  4. Focus on one task at a time – This practice can be applied to anything you do! Whether you are brushing your teeth, washing the dishes or driving to work. It’s a form of meditation when you notice your attention is engaged with your busy mind and you guide your attention back to what you are doing. Conor, my husband, has struggled with guided meditations in the past but, what he has noticed over the years is that, fishing is his meditation. He is fully immersed in the experience of it so there isn’t much that could distract him from it. 9 times out of 10 when he is finished he has reached a state of full relaxation. On this trip, I especially enjoyed skipping stones on the water. It’s not about judging what you are doing or being critical of yourself, it’s just observing what you notice.
  5. Mindful Walking – Walking mindfully is another great activity to practice attention training – bringing your attention back to your feet hitting the ground, the movement of your body, noticing and releasing any tensions as you go. It can also be a very powerful way to shift your state. If you feel too wired to sit still and meditate, meeting your energy where it’s at and slowly guiding it back to calm can sometimes be more effective. The alternative can be true too. If you are feeling low energy, sluggish, and stuck in unhelpful thinking patterns, moving your body forward can break the stagnant mind-body connection cycle.
  6. Journal to offload and observe thoughts and emotions – Journalling is a very powerful tool that can be used in many ways. It can be hard to shift from a busy week to sudden stillness with no distractions. We can suddenly become very aware of any worrisome thoughts or critical judgement loops our mind has gotten stuck in. Or we may have pent up emotions that we haven’t had time to address throughout our busy week, and they may become uncomfortable to confront all at once. We can have upto 15,000 random thoughts a day. Physically writing down any thoughts that you can observe provides a filtering and filing system for any excessive thinking patterns. Journalling also provides a safe place for you to observe and validate any uncomfortable emotions. Once we validate how we feel, emotions will settle so then we can choose our preferred response instead of reacting out of impulse. Often we get frustrated or feel lonely if we don’t have someone to listen to us or validate how we feel. By journalling, we take our power back and create a very powerful way of self-soothing ourselves.
  7. Read something light and fluffy – Paying attention to reading is another attention training practice. It also can shift our state from wired to calm. Curling up with a light-hearted book can provide safety and comfort anywhere you go which helps our nervous systems calm down when stuck on high alert. If your current reality leaves you with a sense of unease, immersing yourself in an alternative world and connecting to lovable characters can provide  a welcomed break and reset.
  8. Watching the sunset – Experiencing the shift in light, colours and temperature of a sunset is a beautiful way to become more grounded and present.
  9. Sit in stillness and focus on your surrounding sounds – When we are still we break the cycles of busyness and urgency we can get stuck in during the week. By sitting still we are breaking those cycles and allowing our stress hormones to settle down. Tuning into the sounds of the water running, birds chirping and leaves rustling are all great ways of using your natural resources to engage your senses.
  10. Mindful eating – Normally we fire up the BBQ for camping dinners, but we were both quite tired and looking for a lighter option. So I grabbed some sushi and muffins for the evening. Eating is another great task to practice attention training. It’s also important for the digestive process to engage in every step of digestion. It starts with craving the food and producing saliva to begin the food break down process. When we are distracted while eating and just gorging our food, we miss out on vital steps of the digestion process which can lead to gut dysfunction or discomfort. By paying attention to our stress levels and our cravings, we can also reduce the need to eat of comfort and be more mindful of our choices.
  11. Get hypnotised by an open fire – We call our camp fire nature’s television. It’s mesmerising. It’s also a great way to activate your senses – camp fire smell is a distinct one, the touch or warmth can make or break a camping trip on a cool night, the sound of the crackling, and watching the flames dance all make for an incredible immersive experience.
  12. Reconnect with active listening – True connection comes from listening without judgement or interruption. Managing our impulses to interrupt or give an opinion can be tricky but completely achievable with practice. The key to a healthy relationship isn’t spending all our available time together, mindlessly sitting on a couch watching Netflix or scrolling on your phones night after night. It’s creating meaningful moments of quality connection through attention.
  13. Stay open to a change of plans – Get fixed or attached to a desired outcome will only lead to frustration and stress if the plans or circumstances change. When we stay open and curious, we adapt easier and can make the most of our time doing something else. In this case, we were hoping to chill out by the water for the day and take our kayaks on the lake but the wind picked up and nearly took our tent out of the ground. Instead, we stored away our gear, grabbed some hiking boots and followed the trail to somewhere more sheltered.
  14. Check in on your breath and slow it down –  Our breath is the best indicator of our stress levels. When we feel under pressure or wound up, our breathing gets quicker and more shallow, we breathe into our chest rather than deep and slow into our diaphragm. This shallow breathing is great for getting our heart pumping faster and adrenaline pumping so we can get stuff done. But we can get stuck in that hyper aroused state, using the wrong muscles to breath causing tension in our chest and neck and find it hard to unwind. By tuning in to where your breath is at, you can slowly guide it back to deep and slow and bring yourself back to calm.
  15. Pausing to take it all in, and practice gratitude for all that you have – It’s easy to go through life blindly and suddenly wake up and wonder where the time has gone. When we are stressed, our brain automatically switches to a negative bias, thinking of all the worst case scenarios so we can feel prepared and keep ourselves safe. This is a very useful response when we are walking through the woods alone at night and we hear a rustling in the bush. We think of all the worst case scenarios and prepare ourselves for an attack so we can stay safe. But living from day to day with busy minds and high levels of stress can get us stuck in these negative bias loops. By practicing gratitude and focusing on the positives in our lives, we are creating new thinking patterns and learning to switch off our stress response.

We have welcome a new member into our family, Daisy the caravan, and hung up or tent for now.

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