In my busy life, sometimes I don’t end up spending as much time outside in nature as I’d like to, even though it’s something I really love doing. When this happens, I end up feeling a sense of disconnect that I can’t quite put my finger on. I feel like when we spend all our time in artificial environments, surrounded by florescent lights and air conditioning, we miss out on an important, deep-rooted need to be around nature. Here are some things you can do when you’d like to become more immersed in the natural world.
1. Make an effort to go outside every day. Just like anything else important in your life, if you don’t make it a priority and set aside time to do it, you may not find the time to. Even if you only have as little as a few minutes a day to spend outside, it will make you feel so much better if you do. Make spending time outside a habit, and you’ll look forward to your special time to reconnect with nature each day.
2. Find a new favorite nature place. If you don’t already have a “happy place” outdoors, set out to find yours! Look for an unclaimed patch of sand among mangrove trees, a fallen tree in the middle of a forest clearing, a bench in your community garden, your own backyard, or anywhere else that speaks to you. Find a place that makes you feel grounded, centered, and connected, then visit it often.
3. Draw, sketch, photograph, or do a crayon rubbing of the various nature textures and patterns around you. Trunks of trees, unique flowers, interesting-shaped leaves, the outsides of buildings, and clouds are great things to document, and by doing so, you’ll become more mindful of the beautiful secrets of hidden details.
4. Go for a mindful hike. Hiking is always enjoyable, but to make it even better, try adding mindfulness into the mix. As you walk the pathways, really pay attention to the sound of birds chirping, wind rustling the leaves of trees and plants, and the sound of your breathing. Feel your feet making gentle impressions on the earth & the way your clothing moves with you. Look at the way sunlight dances on the trees, & notice the fresh clean way the forest smells. Doing this always makes me feel refreshed, and can serve as a type of walking meditation.
5. Photograph the best sunset. Remember how when you were a kid, everything was awesome? Capture that same spirit of being enthralled and excited about beautiful, everyday nature. Every sunset can be the “best”. The idea is to find a sunset or something else beautiful, & get really enthusiastic about how great it is, then document this so you can remember it and look back on it later.
6. Learn a new outdoor skill. This takes a little more time than some of the other things on this list, but it’s a great way to connect with nature while challenging yourself and learning something new. Take up jogging, read up on how to pitch a tent and set up a campsite, plant a garden, or learn to kayak, dive, surf, ski, or rock climb.
7. Discover new things about your environment. Sit in nature with a notebook and pen, then list at least 10 things about your surroundings that you didn’t notice when you sat down. Get a magnifying glass or microscope and take a close-up look at leaves, stones, moss, or shells. For an opposite viewpoint, get a pair of binoculars and look at far-away things, like treetops, distant birds, shorelines, and mountains.
8. Learn to identify bird songs, plants, animal tracks, fish, birds, flowers, or seashells. Your local library is a great source for nature guides with pictures of these things, and there is a great joy in being able to identify things that you see. You can also find bird song identification apps for your smartphone or tablet, as well as video and audio examples of common bird songs on YouTube.
9. Eat a meal in your own backyard. I’ve always thought that food tastes better when you eat it out in nature, and by combining eating with being outside, you have more time each day to spend connecting with nature. If you don’t have a backyard or you want to go somewhere different, take some food to your favorite nature spot for a real picnic. For added enjoyment, bring some friends or family along with you to enjoy the meal.
10. Open your windows & let fresh air into your home. This is really simple, but I feel like it makes a huge difference in feeling better in general. Especially when you consider the EPA statistic that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outside air, it makes even more sense to freshen the air in your home. Doing so will make your house feel and smell better, and will bring a healthy part of the outdoors in. Fresh air has a purifying effect on the energy + vibes of your home, & when I feel the need for an energy detox & a fresh start, I open my windows.
Spending more time outside will give you knowledge and a greater appreciation for all the beauty of the natural world, as well as a sense of peace and connection. By making a conscious effort to immerse yourself in the natural world a little more, you’ll find the time you spend outside not only connects you more with the earth, but with yourself as well.