Creator Conversation: Bev McGarey On Woodland Mindfulness

Written by

The Hook Team

Published on

July 10, 2023
Time to read: 5 minutes

Woodland Mindfulness is led by Bev McGarey, a Creative Therapist following the principles of Holistic Integrated Creative Arts Therapy (HiCAT). She has over 20 years’ experience of managing arts and music education events for all ages from toddlers to senior citizens having worked as an arts development officer for local and rural authorities, and as Head of Music within secondary education.  

Woodland Mindfulness was set up to provide an opportunity for people to improve their mental health and well-being through connecting with nature and creativity combined with meditation and mindfulness practice. Her aim is to transform mental health & wellbeing through nature connection, creativity and community: mind, body and soul transformation one gentle step at a time Can you tell us in your own words what Woodland Mindfulness does? 

 Woodland Mindfulness combines nature connection with creative arts and mindfulness activities to improve mental health and well-being. I work with all ages, individuals, groups, schools and communities. 

My work is based on the holistic principles of enhancing mental ‘wealth’ and emotional awareness through igniting deeper mind, body and soul connection in a journey of self-empowerment and discovery.

“People struggle to allow themselves the time or space to ’check in’ to discover how they really are feeling.”

My work is based on the holistic principles of enhancing mental ‘wealth’ and emotional awareness through igniting deeper mind, body and soul connection in a journey of self-empowerment and discovery.  I provide a space for people to unwind, to be artistically playful or curiously conscious through increased sensory stimulation directly through nature or nature inspired creativity. Nature literally breathes life into our very existence. By mindfully tuning into the natural world and spending time in creativity, we develop transformational insights that deepen our understanding of ourselves and the invisible connections of what is seen and unseen. 

What inspired you to create Woodland Mindfulness?  And what motivates and inspires you within your work? 

Woodland Mindfulness grew out of my own journey of managing anxiety and depression. My motivation is to support other people to confidently change their story, by finding the key to get out of the complexities of their head and into their senses! Whether it is through mindfulness walks engaging with the sights, sounds, smells and textures; or creating a safe space to be playfully curious in art-making. I provide the excuse, the permission and the motivation to let go of the pressures of time, to release the past and let go of fear, to be mindfully in the now.  By embracing creativity and nature connection we can change our state of mind, we can, moment by moment, construct a different lens through which to fully live our future.   

“We breathe around 20,000 times a day and even though it seems a simple straight forward process, it is actually a complex series of muscles across our body enabling us to provide oxygen to our cells and expel carbon dioxide.”

What are the benefits of connecting with nature? Is it the same for adults and children or are there differences? 

Children are getting more technologically driven and transfixed with the online world at a younger age, resulting in less exposure to creativity, playfulness and the outdoors. Mindful nature meditation is one of the most accessible forms of meditation as there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Mindful walking, helps us deepen awareness of our physical body and its connection to the earth, the elements and the universe.  It provides a gentle opportunity to slow down from the chaos of our busy lives. We breathe around 20,000 times a day and even though it seems a simple straight forward process, it is actually a complex series of muscles across our body enabling us to provide oxygen to our cells and expel carbon dioxide.  Deepening our sensory connection, creates a state of mind where we consciously approach everything with newfound curiosity. Nature, creativity and our breath are all in a constant state of change and allow us to be free from our deepest limitless beliefs with no judgement. 

What trends have you noticed around mental health? 

 There are people from all walks of life struggling with their wellbeing. I volunteer at a wellbeing and am staggered to see over 125 people attending.  

Many clients on my monthly walks with Nuthatch Retreats, openly share how they feel isolated and lonely as they continue to work from home and don’t seem to socialise as much anymore. A sign that we are only at the tip of the true impact of covid on the mental health of all generations.   

People struggle to allow themselves the time or space to ’check in’ to discover how they really are feeling, remaining victims of the’ brave face’ culture or the ‘fake’ Facebook fun media.  With less air getting into our bodies, there is greater tension, headaches, tiredness, increased heart rate and anxiety. Modern life is just moving too fast, we need to take the foot off the accelerator and become more in union with our world on an energetic level through nature connection, creativity and mindfulness.   

What positive outcomes have you seen with the work that Woodland Mindfulness does? 

I have just finished a series of mindfulness walks at a secondary school and have been blown away by the feedback from the teachers. They feel able to be intentionally present in nature and in their classrooms, providing more balance in their life and actually improving their concentration and functionality.   

The work with students has helped to introduce to them the ability to become more self-aware through appreciation and gratitude for the small things in life  – the sun shining through a leaf, an ant crawling up a trunk.  The experience of walking slowly not only connects their brain and body movement in a profound new way, but helps to settle their mind and rebalance emotionally and energetically.  Starting the day, breathing in nature’s energy and breathing out whatever is bothering them. A fantastic use of tutor registration time.   

“Let your breath and the quality of your mind reflect the qualities of the world you would like to live in.”

What tips would really help young people in terms of connecting with nature.   

I implore young people to take just 3 to 5 minutes to put their phones away, even just a few minutes experiencing the power of mindfulness is hugely beneficial. To take a moment to embrace the natural movement of life and take note of anything that is moving.  Whether it is whilst outdoors in nature or sitting quietly doodling, knitting or painting!  Striving to be less reactive to our environment, to take things in with curiosity instead of judgement means our life has more ease and happiness. Ultimately, everything in life around us has the potential to be good or bad, scary or funny, inspiring or frustrating… it all depends on our minds and our minds at that moment. Let your breath and the quality of your mind reflect the qualities of the world you would like to live in.

If you enjoyed this read, you might want to check out the rest of Hook’s Creator Conversation series – we’ve chatted with the founder of Broccoli Content about the importance of championing diversity in podcasts, explored how kids animations can be powered up through research, and shone a light on how new kinds of toys are changing the play experience. Have a read!

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