Nature offers us a dependable outlet to improve our mental health and well being. Studies show there’s a direct correlation between nature and life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and lower cognitive anxiety. That’s a whole lot packed into one dose of nature, making it that much more worthwhile to connect with nature on a regular basis, even when winter is coming (cue the Game of Thrones theme song).
Developing sustainable habits to connect with nature on a consistent basis is an easy way to benefit from the positive impact nature has on our mental health.
As a New York City girl myself, the ‘urban jungle’ doesn’t exactly scream lusciously green, particularly when I’m sitting on the 10th floor of my office building in Times Square with a view of an LED light-up billboard display for potato chips.
Cities challenge us with the task of incorporating nature in our everyday routines, particularly during the winter, when harsh temperatures and wind tunnels discourage us from exploring beyond a 10-block radius. We need to discover sustainable ways to get our daily dose of nature. This requires us to embrace unique and sometimes unconventional ways to expose us to nature on a more consistent basis.
After a long day behind the computer or cramped inside my 2×4 apartment during a cold front, I like to know there are places nearby to encounter nature and feel revitalized. Here are a few tips and tricks to stay connect with nature this winter and sustain your nature fix.
Admire a green wall installation
Green walls are decorative plant murals, beautiful to look at and highly functional. They insulate noise and clean and cool the air through natural filtration and ventilation. Talk about efficient design.
Green walls are common outdoor installations, but when its twenty-five degrees outside and snowing, we want to be inside admiring a beautiful green wall. Due to the recognized restorative properties of nature, these design choices are becoming easier to find in functional, indoor locations, allowing you to connect with nature while on the go and not freezing your butt off.
Explore your city to find green walls in stores, restaurants, cafes, lobby areas, and even trendy fitness studios. The natural designs transform your every-day experience into a serene tropical exploration. Use the tapestry of plants as a reminder to slow down in our busy lives, as the greenery reinforces the importance of being mentally present and enjoy the simple pleasures nature has to offer.
Find a peaceful indoor garden
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when looking for an indoor garden experience in any city? If you thought of the botanical gardens, you’re not alone. Hence why the gardens can draw a sizable crowd in the winter months. Don’t get me wrong, botanical gardens are beautiful to visit. But sometimes, we aren’t looking for a full-day adventure involving congested lines and clunky strollers.
For that reason, I suggest exploring unique indoor garden locations appealing to those hoping to avoid a more touristic experience. These natural sanctuaries are decorated with plants, flowers, and fountains, creating an escape from busy city streets and reminding us of nature’s restorative properties. Sit on a bench, perhaps with a book if you have a moment to spare, and enjoy the natural light, as the glass ceilings and windows filter the warmth of the sun from the jarring winter temperatures outside.
Get your hands dirty
Cities across the U.S. are seeing an expansion of urban agriculture through the restoration of real estate such as roofs, old warehouses, and alleyways. Recently, urban agriculture is taking on new forms through aquaponics and vertical farming. These indoor, technology-powered farms produce a diversity of crops and source them locally to restaurants and schools nearby.
Try getting your hands dirty at a hydroponics or indoor farming class at a local vertical farm. Some vertical farms also offer tasting tours of their produce, encouraging people to feel comfortable with the future of food. These immersive experiences bring you closer to nature in a more futuristic way, while still benefiting from the sights, smells, and tastes straight from the farm.
Take in a view
While there’s nothing quite like hiking a mountain to take in a great view or sitting on a beach to watch the sunset, cities offer us great heights with the possibility to view nature from a taller perspective. Studies suggest taking in a panoramic view of nature can lead people to experience awe, gratitude, and lower anxiety. Explore tall buildings in your city to catch a glimpse of a nearby park or river from a bird’s eye view. Find a restaurant offering a view to finish off a short winter day watching a picturesque sunset.
Winter months can leave us craving the natural colors of our world, anything besides industrial concrete occasionally broken up with an orange traffic cone. Taking a moment to embrace a view of natural colors conjures feelings of happiness, admiration, and gratitude for our world’s beauty that exists even when we’re not paying attention.