Like the expansion of the universe, our lives seem to be accelerating exponentially every year. As our schedules become more populated with duties and commitments, it’s easy to forget about that which surrounds and supports us — Mother Nature.
Communing with nature has many psychological benefits, such as reducing stress and helping us connect with others. But it also works on a much larger scale, by reestablishing a primordial connection to our environment and reinvigorating our appreciation for the earth. Here are 9 ways to enjoy nature no matter how busy your schedule.
1. Watch a Nature Documentary
You can enjoy the benefits of natural surroundings with a good nature documentary. Berkeley University recently released a study that showed us that watching nature documentaries benefited mental health and lowered stress levels. Plus, nature documentaries teach us something about our world.
So, unwind with a curated list of nature documentaries. Nothing steadies a hectic mind more than the soothing voice of David Attenborough describing the fortitude of a colony of Emperor penguins. If you don’t have time to sit and watch a nature documentary, leave it playing in the background while you’re folding laundry, doing housework, or working on your laptop.
2. Find a Nature-Friendly Commute
While you’re looking for ways to make your commute more productive, plan your drive around some natural vistas. If you’re setting out from a suburban residence, map out a route that takes you through forests, mountains, or national parks.
If your trip to work only takes you through urban landscapes, then look for parks and green areas inside the concrete jungle. If you’re taking public transportation, consider walking a few times a week through these natural areas. However, urban noise and activity can counteract nature’s balm. So, use earplugs when it’s safe to or play nature sounds in your car to help block out the chaos.
3. Take Your Next Meeting Outside
Exchange that oak desk in the boardroom for an actual oak tree. Transfer your meetings to natural environments and your entire team benefits. Weather permitting, turn your 15-minute stand up into a brisk walking meeting, which can increase cognitive output by 60%. Or plan your next offsite at a cabin in the woods. Any change of environment can reinvigorate stale meeting spots — natural scenes just add another layer of benefit.
4. Walk at Lunchtime
Get your nature exposure while at lunchtime. Take your lunch and walk to the park. Or walk to a food truck park and eat on a public lawn.
Also, try literally connecting with nature when you take a lunchtime walk. Take a pocket full of breadcrumbs and feed the pigeons and ducks. Befriend a local squirrel and treat your furry friend with a few peanuts or a fruit snack. Don’t forget that nature is more than just trees and grass. You can get your enjoyment from the critters too.
5. Grow a Desk Plant
If you just can’t find time to get out into nature, bring it to you. Bring in a potted plant for your desk. Having indoor plants at your workstation will expose you to some nature and increase your productivity. Carbon-eating green foliage also helps filter the stale air of an office.
You can also get more nature in your busy life by growing an indoor herb garden, which will also help spice up your meals. Bringing nature to you may require you to downsize it. If so, get a Bonsai tree. Nurturing and sculpting it will increase your focus and reduce your stress.
6. Exercise Outside
Try exercising in natural environments. Do yoga at the park. Find a jogging trail near your house or office. Walk your dogs for several miles. Hike up a mountain trail. These types of “green exercise” give you a double shot of relaxation by mixing two activities that are guaranteed to inject some contentment into your life.
7. Play Nature Sounds on Your Headphones
Because sound is such a powerful stimulus, use it to help you connect with nature. Play nature sounds on your headphones while working, commuting, or exercising. Researchers have found that simply listening to nature sounds helps lower your body’s sympathetic response (i.e. “fight-or-flight”) and relax you.
8. Take a Virtual Tour of Nature
Combine nature sounds with moving images for a better experience. Today, video and virtual reality are bringing nature to you. Put on your headphones, turn on your computer monitor, and take a digital nature walk via YouTube. Or get completely immersed with Google Earth VR — take a virtual tour of Yosemite National Park or other natural scenes from anywhere on the planet.
9. Go for a Drive Up a Nearby Canyon
Nothing humbles the soul more than seeing the awe-inspiring vista of a canyon. These vast landscapes of carved earth are easy to appreciate from the comfort of your vehicle. Take a drive through one of the many canyons across the United States and connect with nature on a grand scale.
Connecting to nature is too important for our mental and physical health to avoid just because we’re busy. To “stop and smell the roses” isn’t a cute, antiquated proverb; it’s a modern requirement for those who want to balance the chaos of their modern lives with the steady rhythms of Mother Nature.