Forge a deeper connection with the world around you in six simple ways. Start with a DIY nature altar.
In today’s busy world, forming a true connection with the earth can seem impossible. Most jobs are indoors, and with the pandemic, even recreation, entertainment, and social activities are confined to a screen. If you’ve been feeling especially stressed and anxious lately, it may be because you haven’t been spending enough time in nature.
Here are six simple ways to renew your connection with nature—and get some of your peace of mind back.
Create a Nature Altar
If you aren’t able to get outside as often as you’d like, try connecting to nature with a nature altar. Creating a nature altar is a deeply personal act, and there’s no one set of instructions for making one. Instead, think of what nature means to you. When you visualize a natural environment, do you picture rushing waterfalls? Waving grass? Even a tall, shadowy forest? Collect a few items that remind you of this environment.
If you feel most in tune with nature when you’re on the beach, for example, your altar could contain a few seashells, a shallow bowl of sand to run your fingers through, and a sea salt scented candle. If you prefer the woods, try some dark green fabric and a handful of pine needles. Add to this a few of your favorite pictures or paintings of nature and a potted plant or two.
Find a place in your house where you’re able to relax—or, alternatively, a place where you need more relaxation, such as a home office—and make a space for your nature altar there. You can put it on a shelf, in a window, or even pack it away in a box until you’d like to look at it again. Think of your nature altar as a charging station for your soul.
Whenever you’re overwhelmed and need a moment of peace, just go to your nature altar and spend as much time as you need reconnecting with the earth.
Grow Edible Plants From Seed
Growing edible plants is a great way to become more deeply connected with nature. Edible plants literally help you put down roots into the Earth, from the amount of time they require you to spend outside with your hands in the dirt, to the way they allow you to observe the birth and growth of new life. Some of the easiest plants to grow from seed in your own home are tomatoes and bell peppers.
You don’t need to buy special seeds from a gardening store—simply buy a few fresh vegetables, scoop out and rinse their seeds, and leave them to dry for a few days on a piece of paper towel. After ensuring the seeds are clean, plant them about an inch deep in cups of dirt and place them on your windowsill, making sure to water them every day. Tomatoes especially need a lot of water.
As you are nourishing your plants, think about how they will someday nourish you. Think about how you, like all natural things, need water, sunlight, warmth, and love. When your seedlings are about two inches tall, find a sunny spot outside to plant them in.
You can plant them directly in the ground, or just place them in larger pots. As you replant your seedlings, take the time to fully immerse yourself in the sensations of the moment you are in. Acknowledge the warmth of the sun on your back and the cool, wet feeling of the dirt in your hands. Do the same thing while watching your plants grow. Inhale the sharp green scent of tomato plants, and rub the soft leaves of pepper plants between your fingertips.
When it comes time to harvest and eat your plants, savor them, and focus on the way the earth is nourishing you as you nourished it.
Keep a Nature Diary
Go for a walk in a natural environment near your house, and take a small notebook with you. As you walk, write down as many details as you can observe about the space you are in. Capture as many different senses as you can. What do you smell, when you tip your head back and breathe deeply through your nose? What do you hear, when you hold yourself as still as possible and close your eyes? You don’t have to write in complete sentences—words, phrases, even the lines of a poem or a song you’re reminded of can all help capture the environment you find yourself in. Then, turn your observation inward.
Think about how you feel in this natural environment. Are you calm? Excited? Bored? What is it about being in nature that makes you feel this way? Verbalizing your feelings can help you tune into them more deeply. You might be surprised at the truths you reveal about yourself in this moment. Write down as much as you can, date your entry, and, if you’d like, press a couple of flowers or leaves between its pages.
Now, whenever you’re missing nature and the peace of mind that comes with it, you can open your nature diary and be transported back to your favorite places.
Nature Focused Mindfulness Moment
Mindfulness is a therapy concept that’s begun to catch on outside of the doctor’s office. At its most basic, mindfulness is the use of mantras and grounding techniques in order to anchor oneself in the current moment. It can help reduce both immediate and long-term anxiety. A nature-focused mindfulness moment does this while also strengthening your connection with your natural surroundings.
First, find a spot outdoors to enjoy. This can be a walk in the woods, a couple of steps out onto your porch, or simply sticking your head out the window. Relax and become aware of your body by breathing slowly and deeply. Hold each breath in for a couple of seconds before letting it out. Then, begin a deep observation of the environment around you. List five things that you can see—the sky, for example, or a tree. Then continue with four things you can hear, three things you can feel or touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Make sure to continue your breathing exercise as you do this, taking slow, deep breaths. Once you’ve finished going down your list of sensory details, take a minute to note how you feel in this moment. You should be calm, present, and more in touch with the natural world around you.
Aromatherapy and Visualization
Aromatherapy and visualization are a great way to connect with nature when you’re strapped for time or can’t get outside your house. Choose a few of your favorite natural environments, and buy some essential oils with scents that remind you of those places. If you like forests, choose a spruce or pine scent. If you favor meadows, lavender might come to mind. Once you’ve collected your scents, all you need is a few minutes alone. Place a small drop of oil on the back of your hand and smell it, breathing deeply and evenly (Be sure to follow instructions for use as laid out on the product).
Close your eyes and let your imagination transport you to a relaxing natural spot. Think of what you can see and hear. Think of how you feel when you are there. Do this for as long as you’d like. You might even fall asleep!
When you open your eyes again, take a moment to center yourself in the space you are in. Try to carry the calm you feel with you into the rest of your day, and you will carry your connection to nature with you as well.
Forage for Wild Salad Greens
There’s no better way to connect with nature than to be nourished by it, and foraging for wild salad greens is a simple, healthy, and relatively safe way to do so. Foraging is an act of deep listening and close observation. You must tune in with your surroundings in order to pick out the bright purple of honeysuckle flowers from a field of green or to tell ripe and unripe berries apart.
After even just a few minutes of searching, you may find yourself feeling more closely connected to the natural world. You’ll feel like a part of it, as a creature who is, however briefly, depending on the earth for your sustenance. Foraging can seem intimidating, but as long as you have a good foraging space and a reliable guide, it can be easy and fun. First, find out what edible plants the area you live in has to offer. Make sure to pick a public spot where pesticides haven’t recently been applied, and you’re all set to look for dandelions and mustard plants.
Being outside and connecting with nature is crucial to our mental and spiritual health. It brings us relaxation, peace of mind, and even helps us connect more deeply with our inner selves. May these tips bring you peace of mind, body, and spirit.
Want more about connecting to nature? Read about ecotherapy.