Connecting to nature has many benefits for body, mind, soul, and spirit. But how is one to do that with so little time and so many things already to be done? Simple answer: with a little bit of will and some creativity.
Seriously though, connecting to nature does not mean you have to take a four hour hike every weekend, buy a canoe, or plant all your own food. If you have not been doing much in nature at all these past years, start very, very small: stick your head out the window or the door for a couple of minutes every morning and take a nice, deep breath of fresh morning air. If you live in the city and ‘fresh air’ and ‘stick your head out the window’ don’t seem to be right in the same sentence, get yourself a potted plant and set it up by the breakfast table in the morning. Take something easy, an ivy or such like; something that will survive if your forget to water it occasionally. Or buy a bird feeder and hang it by the window so you can see the birds coming to feed while you are having dinner. None of those things take a lot of work (water the plants once a week, refill the bird feeder once every couple of weeks) but they provide a starting point for nature connection.
If that is too basic — or once you have done that for a while and are itching for something more — try to change how you are when you are outside already. When you are going for a walk, or even when you are going shopping, can you switch from head-down-starring-at-the-pavement-and-running-the-shopping-list-through-my-mind-while-hurrying-to-the-mall-door to something more like this: get out of the car and stand tall for a second; look up, notice the clouds, the sun and sky; then walk across the parking lot looking around you and noticing any kind of natural life there may be: birds, scrubby little trees, the flowers and grasses in the planters by the entrance. Just notice them and keep the shopping list out of your mind until you have your hand on the mall entrance door. Not only will you connect to your surrounding a bit more, you will also likely feel a bit less hassled by the time you get to the door — and you’ll be a whole lot safer crossing the parking lot.
When I go for my Sunday walks I am always amazed at how many people make the effort to drive to a natural area — a forest, ravine, or beach — and then spend their time walking with their heads down and talking to someone either in person or — yikes — on the phone. When you are make the effort to get out into nature, try to actually “be” there. For your soul it is better to spend 10 minutes in your backyard or in a park close by but really being present for it than spending two hours walking through a pristine forest without actually seeing it.
Here are some relatively simple ways of connecting to nature:
- Have your cup of tea or your lemonade in the afternoon outdoors.
- Take a minute or two and put your bare feet on a patch of grass, soil, or ground cover (in the winter, take a handful of clean snow and rub it on your face before getting inside)
- Say “hello” to the sun in the morning: when you walk to your car, stop for a moment, face the sun (or the direction of the sun if it’s cloudy) and welcome the new day and the life giving rays
- Create a scavenger hunt with your kids when on your next walk: make a list of things for them (and you) to find: smooth stones, seeds like acorns, feathers, flowers, pine cones, etc. If you do this with cameras you can include animals, birds nests, different kind of trees, rivers, etc.
- Plant some herbs in your yard or in pots on the deck or balcony: parsley, chives, peppermint, lemon balm, and oregano are quite easy to keep; rosemary and sage can be taken inside in the winter.
- Spend a warm summer’s night out on the deck, looking at the stars and the moon
- Build a snowman in the front yard
- Do some bird spotting: try to find that little singer who’s chirping at the top of his lungs when you are going for a walk
- Consider planting some local shrubs and flowers
- Put out food for critters in the winter: seeds for the birds, peanuts for squirrels,
There are many more simple and easy things that can get you into closer contact with nature. If 30 minutes a day is too much time, don’t worry: start with three. If nature pure (as in “the woods”) is too much, start with your deck. Like every other change in life, this one is most likely to be successful if the steps towards it are easy to follow and fun to do. So, be creative and have some fun with your (re)connection with nature.