Self-care is one important aspects of being healthy, but it frequently gets put off by our ever-growing to-do lists. The natural world can be a powerful antidote to the fast-paced technology-driven life most of us are living these days. Here are some ideas for ways you can take care of yourself in nature.
1. Go for a device-free walk
Seek out a local park or greenway trail close to your work or home, put your phone in airplane mode and go for a walk! No texting, calls, emails or social media on this walk.
Most of us can easily fit in a 10-minute walk into our day. It requires no special equipment or skill, so it’s a great way to integrate self-care into your daily routine. Longer walks can provide more mental and physical benefits.
If you’re having trouble letting go of your mind’s chatter, you might try listening to some uplifting music while you walk.
Better yet, skip the music practice mindful walking. With each step you take, pay attention to the movements your body makes. Pay attention to your breath. Pay attention to your surroundings. If your mind starts to wander to other things “you should be doing”, turn your focus back to your movements, breath or surroundings.
2. Eat a meal outside
Simply sitting in nature has many health benefits, from lowering blood pressure to boosting your immune system. So instead of eating your lunch at your desk or in your car, try taking your meal outside. Resist the urge to reach for your phone or other device and just enjoy the view while you eat.
Mind wandering back to your to-do list? Look for how many different trees or birds you can see. If the weather isn’t conducive to sitting outside, try to find a spot with a window with a view of nature (even if it’s just some tree branches).
3. Enjoy your morning coffee outside
Along the same lines as having a meal outside, having your coffee outside (or with a view of nature) can set the tone for your day. Instead of starting your day by checking your emails or scrolling through social media – take the opportunity to connect with yourself and the natural world. Engage your senses in the sights and sounds of the natural world. It’s a great way to set the tone and pace of your day.
4. Try grounding (or earthing)
Try walking outside barefoot (even if it’s cold or wet). Stick with me on this one. It feels great to walk barefoot down the beach. Sure there’s the feeling of sand under your feet, the soothing sound of the waves, but there’s more to it than that. The earth has a mild negative charge. Over time, our bodies build up a positive charge. Direct contact with natural surfaces can help return the body to a neutral state.
Walking barefoot also helps you slow down and tune into your senses. You pay more attention to where you are placing your feet as you walk. You feel the differences in the ground surfaces on the soles of your feet.
5. Stop and smell the roses
Gardening is an ideal tool for relaxation. It engages several senses – touch, smell and sight. It allows you to focus on what you are doing now.
Caring for other living things can help remind us that we’re not the center of the universe. Flowers remind us that time is fleeting and to enjoy the present moment.
While not everyone has the time or space for a garden, you can add a potted plant to your home or volunteer at a community garden in your area.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a public botanical garden, feel free to just enjoy that space.
6. Watch clouds
Cloud watching is all about slowing down and being in the moment. How long has it been since you’ve laid on your back and just watched the clouds go by? This is a great self-care activity that you can do with others, especially kids.
Watch the clouds, pick out shapes and see how they change as the clouds move. Let your breath slow down.
Spending time in nature – even in the smallest way – is hugely beneficial to our mental and physical health. If you are feeling like you don’t have time for self-care, try spending a few minutes outside in nature.
Lauren Fraser is an outdoor photographer and wanderer at heart. She can often be found enjoying the outdoors with her camera and dogs in tow.