5 Ways to Connect with Nature
by Sharlene Breakey for Real Simple, May 2020
- Stop and smell the wildflowers. Wildflowers are everywhere. Simply head to a state park, local field, or grove of trees and hunt for spots of color. One spring, I was walking through a woodland area flooded with sunlight. The whole forest glowed pink because the redbud trees were in bloom. I couldn’t stop grinning. Just be respectful: If you pick a flower, it won’t be available to produce seed for the next generation. And don’t trample the flowers on your way to a selfie. Consider zooming in on a petal or seed pod and focusing on its unique markings.
- Find feathered or furry friends. It’s amazing to watch animals do what they do. Creatures are going about their lives all over the place, which makes being outdoors endlessly fascinating. Walk reeeeallly slowly and look for areas of motion. That’s going to be a squirrel catching an acorn, a blue jay building a nest, or a mother deer walking with her babies. Sit still, don’t stare straight at them, and animals will often come close. If you find a bird that has fallen from its nest? Assuming it’s not injured, carefully scoop it up and put it back if you can. Contrary to what we’re taught, the mother bird will welcome it back.
- Climb into a kayak. Kayaking always re-centers me. Even in hard white water, I find calm and serenity. Worries and stress fade away, and I inhabit the moment—breathing fresh air and using my muscles. Every time I feel a splash on my face or maneuver my kayak down a chaotic set of rapids, I sink deeper into nature, deeper into peace. Gliding on a lake or a lazy river is also an awesome way to get outside and out of your head.
- Forage for food (safely). Foraging is the original multi-generational activity—ancient families gathered food together. It’s better than hiking because you stop seeing the forest as a solid green wall and start seeing its details: morels, ramps, edible flowers, asparagus, berries, nuts. But don’t pick without permission—or try anything until a professional guide (there are many offering tours across the country) has told you it’s safe. Painting or drawing your discoveries is cool too, and kids often love making spore prints with mushrooms.
- People-watch at the park. I enjoy seeing people in the park: there may be a garden, couples, people dressed up, runners, parents with little ones in strollers or teenagers playing soccer or basketball. You feel a sense of connectedness when you’re surrounded by every stage of life. That’s Community!