There is no doubt that nature is very important for our well-being and mental health. But for many people being in nature, or even simply outdoors, may not be as easy as it sounds, and we end up spending less and less of our time connecting with nature.
A recent study found that Americans spend only 8 percent of their life outside on average.
This is especially true for people living in the city, people that do not have the privilege of having a garden or a balcony and for people that do not have easy access to parks or green areas. And being stuck inside with little or no contact with nature can have a huge toll on our spirit and overall well-being.
Spending some time connecting with nature, whether it’s the mere act of looking at nature, smelling some natural scents, listening to nature or a more involved experience like a walk through a park, a hike in the mountains, or simply sitting by a calm lake, offers a variety of benefits for your overall well-being and mental health.
Connecting with nature has been shown to help reduce the feeling of anxiety and depression, to promote a sense of calmness and relaxation, and to trigger the release of endorphins and serotonin, which have a crucial role in elevating your mood and feeling of happiness. Exposure to nature has also been linked to stress reduction, lower blood pressure, decreased heart rate, and the regulation of cortisol levels, which is your primary stress hormone.
Moreover, by engaging with nature you also unplug from digital devices and instead immerse yourself in the physical world, breaking the constant input of digital stimuli, helping you reduce mental fatigue and allowing your mind to reset, leading to improved focus, cognitive function and increased creativity.
Here are 10 simple ways on how you can start connecting with the natural world and enhance your overall well-being:
Looking at nature, be it directly or even looking at it from afar out of the window or simply in a nice picture, is calming, reduces stress and increases pleasant feelings.
Whether you are at home or in the office, try to incorporate as many natural elements as possible around you. This way, you will be constantly reminded of nature no matter where you look or where you are.
The first thing that you can do is to exploit windows and natural light as much as possible. Open the curtains, let all that natural light in and whenever possible try to pick a spot near a window.
If you don’t have a beautiful view to gaze at, you can hang some photographs of nature onto your walls, put the pictures you took on your last adventures on display or consider painting your walls of a natural color such as a calming green or blue.
Also having an inspiring book of lovely nature photographs within easy reach that you can simply flick through is a great way to boost your morale whenever you need it. Lastly, change your desktop and phone background to an inspiring natural scene so it will put you into a good mood whenever you look at it.
Whether you cycle to and from work or simply cycle in your free time, cycling is a great way to enjoy nature and get some exercise at the same time.
During the nice season, try to incorporate some biking time into your daily commute. If the commute is too long, consider substituting at least the last leg with biking. Instead of driving to the supermarket, try biking there. In your free time, swap some indoor activities for biking.
Biking around will also help you get to know your surroundings, see and discover new places, and connect with the people and environment around you.
Whether jogging through a scenic trail, practicing some yoga in a park, or cycling along a coastal path, exercising outdoors will let you get some fresh air and boost your mood.
There is no better way of bringing nature close to you than to surround yourself with real plants, especially indoors. Plants literally bring a piece of nature inside, they are aesthetically pleasing and they give a nice green touch to your interior. Even simply doing some home gardening and taking care of plants has its benefits. Caring for a living thing gives us purpose and is rewarding, and this can be very helpful to fight loneliness and depression. Moreover, plants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, which will freshen up the air and eliminate harmful toxins.
You can also start a herb garden. Herbs will not only help you add a nice little touch in your dishes, their scent will also have a pleasant and calming effect on your morale. You can read more about how the scent of herbs can have a very positive effect on our wellbeing.
Having real plants and herbs on your balcony, inside your home or at the office is a great way to bring some natural scents into your days. If plants are not available to you, you can use some organic candles or essential oils. Scents such as pine, peppermint, lavender, jasmine and citrus will be a great help to uplift morale and spirit, and they will help you feel refreshed and ease the stress of staying inside.
One part of being outside is hearing what mother nature has to offer, such as the howling wind, the rustling leaves, the chirping birds or a babbling brook. It’s not a secret that natural ambient noises are soothing and calming. Stream some natural background noises into your home or at the office and it will immediately reconnect you with nature and make you feel immersed into a natural environment. You can simply open the windows and listen to the sound of the chirping birds or use Noisli to recreate all your favorite natural spots, be it the tropical forest, the calming waves of the ocean or the cozy summernights in front of a bonfire.
Why not follow some animals going about their business from the coziness of your office, kitchen or living room? You can tune in and follow, among many others, wolves, penguins, elephants, bears, pandas and even jellyfishes.
If watching animals on live stream is not enough for you, you can build a small bird feeder, fill it with some bird food and place it on your balcony or on the windowsill. You will be helpful to them and at the same time you will get to enjoy the joyful visit and singing of birds all day long.
There is a special and magical way to bring nature to you also at night: gazing at the stars and the moon. Switch off all the lights and look at the night sky from your window, joining in on an almost forgotten pleasure. Gazing at the stars is a natural delight which can give us a sense of awe and wonder, and remind us that we’re part of a bigger world and universe.
Of course, if you can, the easiest way to connect with nature is to simply go outside and experience it. Take a walk around, maybe visit a park, a garden, the seaside or have a small trip to a forest to enjoy the benefits of forest bathing. Really immersive yourself and take the time to look around and experience what’s around you.