How to Use Nature for Self-Care (Even When You Live in a City)

Nature is good for the mind and soul.

Being outside allows us to absorb the energy surrounding us. That’s why, at every chance possible, I host outdoor Yoga classes and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible.  There’s something grounding to have a moment simply observing the world- closing your eyes and hearing the sounds around you. Feeling and breathing with the wind. Absorbing the warmth and energy of the sun beaming through your body.  The cooling protective shade of a tree and its growing leaves. Notice how the earth grows and nurtures so much of all that becomes part of it.

Sometimes it feels like we’re hard-wired to be out in nature, at times almost instinctive. The “biophilia” theory by biologist, E.O. Wilson suggests that there actually are evolutionary reasons people seek out nature experiences. We may have preferences to be in beautiful, natural spaces because they are resource-rich environments—ones that provide optimal food, shelter, and comfort. These evolutionary needs may explain why we are drawn to natural environments and why we prefer nature to be part of our surroundings.

Over 100 studies have shown that being in nature, living near nature, or even viewing nature in paintings and videos can have positive impacts on our brains, bodies, feelings, thought processes, and social interactions. In particular, viewing nature seems to be inherently rewarding, producing a flow of position emotions and calming our nervous systems. These in turn help us to cultivate greater openness, creativity, connection, generosity, and resilience.

I am so appreciative for living in a climate where I can spend a majority of my time outdoors, but you don’t have to be in paradise to channel this energy.  I’ve lived in the urban New York City area for the majority in my life but still found ways to create my peace and connect with nature.  Modern living is tough. There’s just too much to do and everyone is rushing to do it all at once. It can be exhausting and frustrating. Along the way, and all too easily, we can lose our sense of self –Does this make me happy? When was the last time I did something for myself? When was the last time I took a break and really just did nothing… just be? Once you’re at this point, it’s time to stop, reflect, and get back to your natural self. Increasing our spiritual connection with nature, as our ancient tribal ancestors did, can be the vital tonic we need.

The energy of New York City is palpable, almost like a constant buzz, so I developed methods that worked for me to use my surroundings to ground me and connect with nature.

Here are some of my nature tips for city-dwellers:

1. Buy a plant and water it every day to watch it grow.  Not only do you reap the benefits of having plants in your home, but you are also nurturing something living and exhibiting patience watching it grow.

2. Head to city parks on the weekend with a book or journal for just one hour.  You’ll have to get up early if you don’t want as many distractions around, but find a quiet spot where you feel comfortable or even put headphones in.  Use a guided meditation on YouTube, or instrumental music that you can relax to.

3. Take a run or walk along the water to connect to the movement and energy of water. Observing is all you need to do in the beginning. Just be- do your best to clear your mind and enjoy the calm and serene view. Focus on the waves… focus on the sound the water makes when it reaches the shore.

In our ever-changing, fast-paced world, we have to carve out our own path to inner peace. There is so much of life to embrace, explore, and relish. Connecting with the spirit of nature can be our guide, and doorway, to a better life.

I work with many clients looking to reconnect with nature, their inner selves, and slow their pace. I offer group and private Yoga classes, full weekend getaway retreats, and healing through sound baths (I even do them virtually!). For more, click here.