As we approach the summer season, the pull of the outdoors also increases. The warmer weather calls us outside, not only to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine, but also to explore all the wonderful natural places that our environment has to offer. From walks in the park, to wild camping and afternoons spent on sandy beaches, the summer months invite us to reconnect with the natural world. In turn, they also provide a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with our inner selves and, in particular, to embrace our inner child.
Embracing our Inner Child
As adults it can be easy to fall into familiar patterns. So often our lives are formed around established structures and daily routines, that to break free from these can seem daunting or even simply too much effort. To step off the familiar paths and break existing habits can also be frightening.
Yet, when we take this small step, we can in fact open ourselves up to a world of new possibilities and experiences. We can discover new aspects to ourselves, to what brings us joy. Equally, it’s also a chance to rediscover and reconnect to passions we might have once had and have since forgotten (or not had the chance to re-engage with). The outdoors is a brilliant space in which to try to rediscover our childlike curiosity and reignite the fires of exploration and excitement within ourselves.
Nature is never still and static. Places that may once have been – or are currently – familiar to us continuously shift and change over the course of the seasons and years. With each visit we have the opportunity to discover new aspects of our natural landscapes and, if we are willing, to reflect on them and on ourselves.
Exploring the outdoors with child-like eagerness and an open sense of curiosity can be difficult for us as adults. Yet, what would happen if we allowed ourselves to follow our impulses, in the same way children do? Instead of going through the familiar motions, the well-trodden routes and paths, what would happen if we allowed ourselves to embrace our curiosity? Might we discover new plants growing deep within the forest? Could we find a new viewpoint that encourages us to reconsider our perspective? Might we delight in the sheer joy of running wildly down a hill?
Engaging with the Outdoors with Child-Like Openness
Approaching an outdoor space with eagerness and embracing the impulses of our inner child creates an opening, an invitation, to dive into different experiences. What might we discover about a place and about ourselves in the process, if we merely give ourselves permission to be curious?
Embracing your inner child requires little effort. For the most part, it is about removing the mental barriers that prevent us from doing so in life more generally. On your next trip outdoors, permit yourself to really look at the environment around you. Instead of rushing to a given destination, allow yourself to take time to pause and to engage with the natural aspects which capture your attention.
Maybe there is a different path that catches your eye. Perhaps you pause to look up, to notice the way the tree branches reach up towards the sky. Maybe you notice some flowers growing in a small patch of earth you’d not noticed before. Or perhaps you stop to observe the movement of the small creatures that call the ground their home.
As you continue, allow yourself to explore using all of your senses. Is there a sound that catches your attention and that you wish to follow? Does the perfume of a wild herb pique your curiosity? Are you drawn to a patch of warm sunlight which you want to simply lay down in and surrender to? Take your time and grant yourself the luxury of being able to simply be in the space.
Exploring the Outdoors with Children
The summer months also signify the start of the summer holidays. For those with children, this is a brilliant opportunity to spend quality time in nature, creating memories and shared experiences together.
If you have children, observe how they interact with the outdoors. Notice how small details catch their attention and fuel their imagination. As parents, it can be all too easy to encourage them to continue on the family journey, instead of allowing them to safely follow their instinct and curiosity.
Notice too how children move in nature. The outdoors invites us to move freely. There is no demand to walk ‘sensibly’. We are free to run, hop, skip, roll, climb, dig… We can choose to move with the natural world around us, to carefully balance along a fallen log, to roll down a grassy hill, to make conscious footsteps in the sand. For the most part, children have little concern about the ‘expected’ ways of moving and this is even more evident when outdoors. They allow themselves to simply approach each location as a new source of inspiration, a new world to explore, a new setting for their next grand adventure or story. They are inquisitive and open to the possibilities that the environment presents them and, most importantly perhaps, they are willing to explore and discover.
This summer, as you venture out with your children, consider allowing yourself the same freedom and possibility. Follow their lead, allow yourself to be open to the invitations that nature presents and be brave enough to accept them. Together with your child, this can be a beautiful chance to engage in meaningful play, discovery and learning.
What would happen if you were to follow them? To take their lead and spend some time investigating those smaller, otherwise unnoticed details? What narratives might you create together? What games might you devise? What unknown pleasures and fun might you discover?
With the natural world blooming into colour, there are a multitude of details to explore. The warmer weather and longer days also make it possible to spend longer periods of time outdoors, inviting us to slow down a little and really engage with the natural worlds we encounter.
Safety must always be at the forefront of our minds, particularly when going outdoors with children, and it’s important to ensure that we take steps to certify that we can enjoy the outdoors responsibly. But if we are prepared, then we can also free ourselves to truly explore.
This month, we invite you to reconnect with your inner child, either alone or with your family and children. Granting ourselves the opportunity to embrace our eagerness to explore and to follow our impulses can be an extremely freeing and liberating experience. That inner experience and freedom is something which we can take with us into other aspects of our daily lives and which can support us in our efforts to live more mindfully.
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