With our hectic lives, it can be tough to find time to connect with nature. When we do, we know we’re doing our hearts and minds a big favor. For your peace of mind, consider these three techniques.
1. Forest Bathing
Shinrin-yoku (“taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing”) was developed in Japan in the 1980s. It’s become an important part of preventative health care and healing there. It’s also catching on elsewhere because of the health benefits. Studies show reduced levels of stress, anger, depression, and anxiety among participants.
Forest bathing doesn’t require a forest; any natural setting (like a park) will do. In fact, choosing a place close to home will allow you to forest bathe more often. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Consider using a guide if you’re a beginner so you can relax and focus on your surroundings.
- Limit distractions. Leave technology behind (no cell phones… or at least turn the ringer off!). If you’re going with other people, agree not to talk until the end.
- Forest bathing isn’t meant to be physically demanding. Choose easy trails without a lot of obstacles.
- Walk slowly and notice small details. Examine leaf details, observe the light coming through the trees, take in the sounds and smells around you.
- Find a place to sit and be still for at least 20 minutes. Don’t worry if you don’t have that much time; even a short nature break can do a lot of good.
- Use these practices at home. Even if you can’t go to the woods, you can slow down and observe your surroundings in a more relaxed way. Change your walk to work, school or the bus to include a park or a quieter side street.
2. Bring Plants Inside
Modern life has us spending more time indoors, so why not add a touch of the great outdoors to your home? Houseplants can brighten your decor while purifying the air. Here are some tips to help you bring the outside in:
- Choose low-maintenance varieties like succulents or ferns. No need to add to your stress with fussy plants that need a lot of attention.
- Consider the light. While some plants need a sunny windowsill, others will do very well in darker areas of your home.
- Use groupings to create a mini forest. Tall plants can serve as trees, shorter plants become the shrubs, and trailing plants are the forest floor.
3. Earth Walking
Guess what may be getting in our way of connecting with nature? Shoes! And socks! Enthusiasts of “earthing” or “grounding” (a.k.a. walking barefoot outside) say removing these barriers for even a few minutes a day has many benefits:
- It allows us to soak up the Earth’s negative ionic charge. Those negative ions can calm us down and help detoxify our bodies. This is best done near water, which may explain why it feels so good to walk barefoot on the beach.
- It forces us to be more mindful. You have to be more aware when you’re walking barefoot, or you might step on something that will hurt.
- Walking barefoot strengthens muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet and legs. You’re using different muscles so you’ll also get a good core workout that can improve posture and balance.
Before you jump in feet first, keep these tips in mind:
- Start slowly. 15 to 20-minute sessions in your home are a good place to start.
- Try safe surfaces when you move outdoors. These include grass, turf, rubber running tracks or sand.
- Stop if you start hurting. Any new pain or discomfort is a signal that you need to back off.
- Walk before you run. For the super-adventurous, add barefoot hiking and climbing after your bare feet are used to flatter ground.
The mental and physical benefits of reconnecting with nature are worth the effort. Fortunately, the effort doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. A few minutes here and there can go a long way toward restoring our peace of mind.