5 WAYS TO CONNECT WITH NATURE IN YOUR EVERY DAY LIFE
This post was written by Bearfoot Theory contributor Katherine Oakes.
In concrete urban landscapes or busy suburban neighborhoods where the pace of life is fast and our to-do lists are never-ending, it’s easy to forget how disconnected we are from the natural world. The ability to connect with nature and reap its benefits can seem difficult. This separation grows more in a burnt-out society that spends most of its free time on smartphones, T.V.s, and computers rather than being outside.
With this ever-widening distance between us and the outdoors, it might seem nearly impossible to find ways to connect with nature in your everyday life, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Today, more scientists are discovering that we weren’t designed to only live within the urban sprawl and that staying connected to nature is critical for our health and happiness. It’s a cure for almost everything that ails, from depression to stress, to social isolation and even fatigue, there are so many benefits to getting outside. As someone who lives in an urban area, I’ve learned that although it can be hard, there are ways to forge that connection every day.
Looking for ways to bring the outdoors into your everyday life? Here are five ways to help you connect with nature.
Get Out In Green Spaces to Connect with Nature
No matter what kind of green space it is, a courtyard outside an apartment complex, your local park or gardens, even an office atrium filled with greenery and sunlight will help you get your daily fix. Experts recommend thinking of these daily doses in a medicinal way; just like taking your vitamins, it’s equally as important to find a few moments to pause and surround yourself with greenery or other natural scenery to restore your nervous system.
While small and frequent doses are a wonderful way to weave nature into your daily life, remember, the bigger the better. It’s simply not enough to just look at potted plants and backyard gardens for a few minutes each day, our chemistry is changed for the better in wilder places. So make it a point to get some exercise outdoors each day. Go for hour-long walk on a local trail, have a picnic, or commit to watching the sunset once or twice a week. Do a search and figure out what U.S.’s many national parks, nature reserves, or other types of public lands are located near your house, and spend a few hours walking winding trails, exploring the ecosystem, and soaking it all up.
Be Near the Water
Our brains love the water: looking at it, hearing it, smelling it and yes, swimming in it all produce the kinds of happy molecules that only nature can supply.
Why? Because like being in the forest or enjoying a quiet spot outdoors, it’s simple and easy for our overstimulated and over-connected minds to process. Whenever I’m feeling stressed out I head to the water because I know how much better I will feel afterward. So, make it a point to get out and be near a body of water at least a few times a week. Luckily for urbanites, most cities are surrounded by oceans, bays, rivers or lakes so, chances are it’s not hard to find a waterfront walkway or beachside location nearby. On your lunch break? Sit by the water. Going for a run? Jog alongside the river and give your brain an extra boost. If you’re looking for a fun weekend on the water or a new paddling spot for an upcoming vacay, check out our list of great must-visit water spots.
Find a Quiet Spot Outside to Connect with Nature
Depending on where you live, you may be surprised to find out that noise pollution is a part of your everyday life. Renowned sound ecologist, Gordon Hempton says that for many of us who exist in spaces full of man-made noise, “silence is an endangered species” and this separation can even have harmful effects on our health. Studies show that being exposed to excessive noise can cause stress, hearing impairment, poor concentration, and productivity, as well as disrupted sleep patterns. Yikes.
Get some much-needed peace and quiet by spending time in outdoor spaces that have minimal to no sound pollution. Now, this may require some more effort on your part, but making an effort to spend quiet time in nature can really make a difference in restoring your nervous system and connect you more intimately to that space. Hempton points out that by doing so you can become more attuned to hearing the birdsongs that signal a peaceful environment — a sound that is known to have had calming effects on humans since the age of our neanderthal ancestors. If you live in a city and struggle to find a silent natural space, try listening to Hempton’s recordings of natural landscapes like canyons, rainforests, and prairies for some soothing sounds.
Read More on Finding Health & Happiness Through the Outdoors
Find a Nature Buddy
If you live in an urban area that requires a drive to the natural landscapes you crave, time and motivation can quickly become seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Find a friend to be your partner on these mini outdoor excursions so that you can hold each other accountable. Pick an activity to do outside, like trail running or dog walking that the two (or more!) of you can do together, this way you’re less likely to skip out on the days when you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed. Plus, sharing this time with a friend or loved one makes it all the more enjoyable by allowing both of you the time to reconnect with nature and each other. It doesn’t have to be a long drive. You could even grab a friend and head to your local park to hang out & play some games post work. If you’re struggling to find people to adventure with, we recommend joining our Bearfoot Theory Outdoor Adventurers Facebook Group.
Skim our 11 Tips on How to Connect with Other Outdoor Women
Try Learning a New Outdoor Activity
One of the best ways to make sure you are consistently getting out in nature is to take up an outdoor activity that you and others enjoy. Challenge yourself to break out of your comfort zone and try something new that will automatically get you to spend time outside. Learn to ski or stand-up paddleboard. It’s not hard to spend your weekends in the woods if you have a backpacking trip scheduled with a few friends. Or, choose to explore the local waterways for an afternoon by renting a kayak or taking a guided tour. Whatever it is, find something you love doing that will keep you happy, healthy and connected. After all, if there’s one thing research knows for sure it’s that nature is good for your body and your brain.