Nature is an incredible tool for reducing anxiety, yet how many of us fully utilize its incredible powers? I grew up in a metropolitan area and did not spend significant time in nature until my early 30s. Since that time, connecting with nature has had profound benefits for my anxiety and overall wellbeing.
Spending time in nature need not be difficult or expensive. No matter where you live, a city park or other natural space is within a few miles of your residence. So, you really have no excuse! The secret to building a “nature habit” is to practice activities or hobbies that involve spending time in nature. In this article, I will detail 7 types of activities that involve spending ample time in nature.
1. Take a hike
Hiking is an activity that offers many benefits. You get to spend time in nature, breathe fresh air, and exercise all at once. Hiking requires no special skills or equipment. Sure, you might want to buy hiking boots or other supplies such as a backpack or thermos. However, I have done many hikes in regular shoes, carrying no supplies!
A hike can be long or short. It can be in a national park or on a small wooded trail in the middle of the city. So, you need not strap on all kinds of crazy equipment and hike the entire Appalachian Trail! My personal definition of hiking is “an extended walk in nature or natural surroundings.”
Get to know the parks in your local area. If you do research, you will probably find many hiking trails are available. You might even have a national or state park in your area. Make a list of parks that might be suitable for hiking and visit each of them. Determine which parks offer the best hiking opportunities and use them regularly.
2. Join a nature-based class
Taking part in a nature-based class is a great way to ensure you will spend ample time in nature. What is a nature-based class?
Examples of nature-based classes include the following.
• Primitive skills classes
• Wild, edible plants classes
• Bird identification classes
Check with your local National Audubon Society chapter as they might offer classes in your area. Also, check the website of your local parks department, as they might offer classes. Some classes are free, and others charge a fee. However, the costs are usually minimal.
3. Practice a nature hobby
You need not attend a class to practice a nature hobby. Perhaps you are interested in bird identification, or learning about wild, edible plants. I enjoy learning about wild, edible plants. This makes hiking more fun because I get to hunt for plants to eat! I also like the challenge of identifying new plants. I have taken no wild, edible plants classes. I bought books on the subject and began the hobby on my own.
Perhaps you are interested in fishing or hunting. Maybe you prefer collecting seashells or learning about trees. The possibilities are many and only limited by your imagination! Choose a nature hobby and pursue it on your own.
4. Take your work outdoors
Do you often feel claustrophobic at work or school? Is there a way for you to take part of your work outdoors? This will not be a fit for every situation. If your boss demands you stay in the office building at all times, then follow his orders! But, many jobs are location independent, meaning they can be done from any location. You can use a notebook computer, a tablet, or even your phone to do your work!
If your work (or schooling) involves listening to audios, then you can listen to them on your phone while hiking. Use your imagination, and you will find ways to take your work outdoors. It might take a while for you to figure out how to do this, but it will be worth the effort.
5. Be a gardener
Like hiking, gardening is an activity that offers myriad benefits. If you are a gardener you will eat better, spend more time outdoors, and get more exercise. Gardening can be intimidating, but many free resources are available to help you learn the basics. My favorite free resource for gardening education is the Growing Your Greens YouTube channel. Another great resource is Mel Bartholemew’s book entitled All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space. This book details the square foot gardening method, which I prefer.
I like to grow greens because they offer the most nutrition and are the easiest vegetables to grow. Greens are great because, unlike root vegetables or tubers, they are edible from the beginning of growth. Some plants offer both edible greens and roots, such as beets and carrots. I highly recommend these plants as they offer the best of both worlds.
6. Take your breaks in nature
Any break you have from working or studying is an opportunity to sneak in a little time in nature. If you can, take a brief walk in the park or do a bit of gardening on your break. If your break is short, then you might not manage more than sitting outside on the grass for a few minutes. That is fine. A little time outdoors can be incredibly beneficial.
What do you usually do during your breaks? Eat a snack? Chat with coworkers or classmates? Bring your snack outdoors and invite your coworkers or classmates to join you. Use your imagination and find ways to take your breaks outdoors.
7. Learn about nature
Author Thomas Elpel says nature is only “wallpaper” unless we learn about it. While I believe any time in nature is beneficial, I am inclined to agree with him. Learning about different varieties of plants, trees, fungi, and animals can greatly enhance your appreciation of nature.
Nature is regularly destroyed in part because many people do not understand nature. They might consider a forested, undeveloped lot to be “wasted land.” When I began to learn about trees and plants, my appreciation of nature skyrocketed. Every vacant lot I encountered was an opportunity for discovery, not “wasted land.” Dedicate time to learn about the details of nature.
I recommend you buy at least one book about plants in your area, and one book about trees in your area. National Audubon Society and Peterson’s guides are excellent choices.