Being around nature has a way of making us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. The concerns and preoccupations of our lives seem to get put in the proper place when we are engaged with the natural world – and usually they are much smaller and unimportant than we make them out to be. Spending time in or around nature brings our lives back into focus and helps us to relax, particularly when we feel like we can’t slow down or when our minds become obsessed with the details of our lives. Americans, in particular, are spending less and less time in nature, but it’s easy to find your way back. Rejuvenate yourself by spending more time with nature.
Spending Time in Nature Helps You Gain Perspective and Focus
Spending time in nature allows us to witness the natural order of life, and reminds us that we are a part of this natural order. Leaves fall in Autumn and return in Spring. Squirrels run up and down trees. Birds fly in the air and dig worms from the ground. These things are supposed to happen and they let us know that the world is not as random as it may seem. There is a rhythm and a structure to life and we can become a part of this rhythm. Particularly when we feel the need to control every aspect of lives, this knowledge allows us to let go and know that things will still be fine. When we begin to notice the details of nature, we also begin to realize that every detail fits nicely into one integrated whole.
“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” – Joseph Campbell
The kind of perspective that you gain while engaged in nature necessarily involves intense focus. During our days when are minds get busy, or even frantic, with dozens and dozens of thoughts, ideas, and things to do, practicing focus can help us manage our occupied minds more carefully. While you are observing the natural world, your attention starts to focus on one thing at a time. You watch a spider walk along a windowsill, and become engaged by the way that it’s thin legs carefully pick it’s way across the surface. Your mind becomes more relaxed as you become involved with the spider’s movement. It dawns on you that the spider has no thoughts but to do what spiders do.
You Don’t Have to Be in the Wilderness to Spend Time in Nature
Spending more time with the natural world is easy. There is nature around us all the time, even in urban environments, if you simply take it in small doses.
- Work near a window – Next time you sit down to do something, do it near a window. At first glance many people might think this would be distracting, but personally I find it stimulating. Now, the catch is that there has to be something natural outside the window – it doesn’t have to be a view of the ocean – but some trees would be nice, anything green really, or maybe a garden. A window facing into a deserted alley probably won’t do the trick.
- Keep plants in the house – Even if you don’t have a lot of sunlight coming into your house all the time, there are houseplants that really don’t require that much light (or water for that matter), and when they do need a little upkeep you might have a grand insight or make an important decision since it’s a routine activity.
- Watch your pets – Do you have a dog, a cat, fish, a hedgehog? Spend some time watching or playing with them (might be a little hard with the fish). Even though these animals live in your house, they still have all of their natural instincts, and if they have the right environment they will display them (appropriately, I hope).
- Go to a park – Landscaped and manicured nature is still nature (I’m thinking more of urban parks here). Parks are great places for taking a walk, sitting around and people watching.
- Go to the beach – Okay, so there’s a twenty-story condo behind you, a six-lane highway behind that, and the beach is packed with vacationers. Even with all these distractions the ocean is still grand. There’s just something about where the ocean meets the land that is inspiring.
- Pick your own fruits and vegetables – There are places you can go where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables right off the tree or bush. Besides the fact that you are going to have lots of great produce to eat, you’re also gonna get a little dirty, sweaty and maybe pricked by a thorn or two (hopefully not sunburned). This reminds me of when I was a kid and used to play in the woods.
- Notice the sunlight in your home or office – Take notice of the way the sunlight shines in your house or office during different times of the day. I’ve always enjoyed the late afternoon sunlight because everything seems so still at that time.
The next time you feel as if you are being pulled in a dozen directions, instead of trying to work faster, take a few minutes and step outside. You’ll see that nature is not rushing, and the Universe still works fine. And so will you.
“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” – Henry David Thoreau