Want to spend more time in nature? Start small.
I spoke to a woman yesterday who said, “I want to spend more time in nature, but I don’t know where to begin.” I think many people can relate to her experience, and many factors can contribute to us not pursuing a nature practice.
For me, the natural world has always been a part of daily life, and I feel negative effects if I don’t spend time in nature. Although life can get in the way sometimes, I made a commitment several years ago to spend part of each day outdoors. Sometimes that means a long hike or camping trip, but often it means a walk around my neighborhood or time in my garden.
Start small to build a nature practice
I intentionally call time in nature a “nature practice” because it takes tending and intention. Similar to yoga, connecting to nature is not about arriving at some end point. It’s about starting new each day and practicing the skills that bring that sense of mind-body connection.
So, if you would like to build nature into your daily life, start small and build it over time. Here are a few ways you can start today (it is #yourwildlifewednesday after all – what better day to add more wild to your life!):
- Set an intention to sit outside for at least 10 minutes per day (porches and balconies count!)
- Buy one new houseplant and learn how to care for it
- Go for a walk in your neighborhood and pick a street with the most trees or natural elements
- Grow one new edible plant or flower in a container on your deck
- Visit a local garden center and just spend time around plants
- Walk to a local park, sit on a bench and listen to the birds
I think the idea of time in nature conjures visions of extreme adventure seekers for many people, but nature is for everyone. You don’t have to become a survival expert or scale a mountain cliff, if that’s not your speed (if it is, that’s awesome, and make sure to practice safety first).
If you work long hours and need a way to unwind each day, you can start with a quick walk around the block. If you have limited mobility, you can hang a bird feeder and enjoy watching nature come to you.
Nature sparks life-long learning
My personal nature experienced deepened tremendously when I started watching birds. My friends know me as a bird person and often ask me how I became interested in them. The photo on this page is one of many of my bird photos that I share weekly on my personal social media.
The nutshell story is that I have always loved birds. I remember watching the House Sparrows outside my bedroom window as a kid (although I only knew them as simply ‘sparrows’ then), and I attempted to save several fledglings in childhood. I even tried to attract birds by building nests for them – ha! Needless to say, birds have better building skills than I do.
However, I didn’t start really learning about birds until my husband and I moved to our current home 10 years ago. I noticed a much greater variety of birds here than in our previous area of town.
One day, a bright yellow bird landed on the bush out front, and I was hooked. I had to know what that bird was — and pretty much every bird since. I started paying attention – and I think that intentionally directed attention sits at the heart of building and maintaining a strong nature practice.
As a new birder, I began with a simple pair of binoculars and a pocket guide to Colorado birds. I expanded my knowledge by using ID tools like Cornell University’s website, which is still one of my favorite resources. I slowly added to both my knowledge and my bird book collection. Now, I can ID most of our local birds, but I always feel the thrill of spotting a new one here or on our travels. I am also working on building my birdsong ID skills.
I will write a lot more about birds in future posts because birds are my thing (in addition to hiking, gardening, flowers and much more), but my point here is that the hobby started somewhere. That yellow bird was an American Goldfinch, and it’s what birders call a “spark bird.” That moment and that one bird sparked a hobby that will help fuel my connection to nature for the rest of my life.
So, today, where will you begin. What will spark that nature connection for you?
Check out my online course for ideas on how to spend more time in nature. A regular nature practice can become a powerful form of self care and supports both physical and mental well-being.