7 Ways to Slow Down, Use All Your Senses & Connect With Nature
Given how human beings live nowadays in cities and towns, we have very little time to connect with nature. Most of the time, we go to work first thing in the morning and return late in the evening, which leaves us with a little bit of time to spend with our families and then plop down in front of the TV!
Obviously, this isn’t a healthy way to live. Human bodies aren’t made for sitting around all day long. In fact, doing so can lead to back problems and weight gain. Plus, you’re missing out on the mood-enhancing benefits of natural light, especially if you work in a cubicle away from the windows in your office.
So if you do have the time to get away and connect with nature, either by yourself or with your family and friends, here are a few ways to slow down, and connect with nature:
1. Be Comfortable
You’re not going to be able to connect with nature if you’re not comfortable. And given that most of us aren’t around nature that much, we’ve forgotten how to be at ease in this environment.
So if this is your first rodeo, don’t make it difficult on yourself. Go camping for 2-3 days, maybe 4. You don’t have to go a full 7 days the first time around. If you’re attempting your first hike in a long time, go for a short one which is a couple of miles long rather than an 8-mile one.
And you need to make sure that you go well-prepared with a tent that you know how to set up, plenty of mosquito repellent, comfortable shoes etc. Most of this is just common sense but it’s a good idea to put some thought into it. If you’re not comfortable then you won’t be able to connect with nature.
2. Slow Down
There’s no point in trying to connect with nature in a hectic way. In the human world, everything moves at a frenetic pace, getting faster and faster as we go along. But nature has her own rhythms.
The sun is going to rise and set at its usual time, depending on the time of the year. A seed, once planted, will take its time to grow. You can’t rush the process along.
So the best thing is to adjust yourself to nature’s rhythms. After all, you’re not going to be able to make things go any faster. So there’s no point in trying.
If you find yourself rushing or worrying, take a deep breath and allow yourself to calm down. Become aware of your surroundings—the sights and sounds which are right in front of you. Focus on the moment.
If deep-breathing doesn’t help, imagine that your feelings are like waves going through you. Allow them to come to you, feel them fully and let them go. This can help you to let go of your inner demons and get in touch with nature.
3. Follow Your Favorite Pastime
Just because you’re going to be immersed in nature for a few days doesn’t mean that you have to leave everything behind. You can still follow your favorite pastimes while you’re in the midst of nature.
So if you love to read, take a good book with you and find a spot where you’re comfortable and have a great view. You can read for a while and then pause to enjoy the beauty of nature all around you.
It’s also a great idea to explore authors who write about nature like Wordsworth or Shelley. When you look at nature from the point of view of those who have done so in the past, you learn to appreciate it even more.
Similarly, if you love playing the guitar, take it along with you, create a bonfire and entertain your friends and family with your favorite songs. Encourage others who are coming along to bring their instruments too. Even if they’re not very proficient, it can be fun to tap out a rhythm on a drum or sing along to songs they know.
4. Use All Your Senses
In daily life, we tend to overuse our eyes, focusing them on computer screens and cell phones all day long. Our ears are also bombarded with traffic sounds, music coming from other people’s houses and vehicles, our own TVs etc.
But we hardly use our other senses at all. When was the last time you stopped to smell a flower? Or to appreciate the feel of a silk dress against your skin? Or to actually taste what you’re eating, rather than gulping it down in a hurry?
When you’re in the midst of nature, you can give your eyes and ears a break. After all, there aren’t going to be any brightly lit screens staring back at you or unnecessary noise.
Try to take in and distinguish the sounds that you can hear—the rustling of the breeze, the chirping of birds, the hum of cicadas etc. Notice the fresh taste of water, the succulence of the freshly-caught food.
Although it’s not a good idea to go around touching every plant you come across, you can still use your sense of touch to enjoy swimming in a pond or pausing to feel the breeze against your face.
5. Be Respectful
As human beings have learned through trial and error, nature is good to you if you are good to it. If you ill-treat nature, it will also ill-treat you back. Plus, it fills you with a nice feeling when you’re respectful towards all that beauty right in front of you.
So don’t litter. Don’t leave candy wrappers and empty chip packets lying around. Don’t smoke and toss your cigarette butts away. Don’t throw beer bottles and soda cans in the open.
Save your litter and dispose of it in designated trash cans. The idea is to leave nature in a condition as good as, if not better than, how you found it.
6. Be Active
Most of us get less exercise than we need at home. But if you’ve taken a few days off to connect with nature, you might want to try to be active.
There are so many ways in which you can be active in nature. For example, you can go hiking, swimming, mountain-climbing etc.
Choose the activity that you like and that you can do comfortably. You don’t want to challenge yourself too much and end up spraining your ankle or breaking a bone. That would defeat the whole purpose.
But keep in mind that it’s actually easier to be active in the outdoors because you’re breathing in all that clean air which makes you feel instantaneously better.
7. Give Thanks
Different people show their gratitude in different ways. Those who are religious might say a prayer before they eat. Those who aren’t religious might try positive affirmations thanking nature, the universal life force energy or whatever higher power they choose to believe in.
Even if you don’t believe in a higher power, it feels nice to make a list of everything you have to be grateful for, from the fresh food and water you’re consuming to the light of the sun and the breeze against your face.
Some people make written lists of things they are grateful for. Others just enumerate these things in their minds. Some speak them out loud.
If you can think of another way of giving thanks like planting a tree or giving a donation to help maintain the place you’re visiting, feel free to do so.
Just remember that it’s all about your intention and not how much money you give. So if you can afford to give some, go ahead. If not, you can find other ways to slow down & be grateful.
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