Can you see a tree from where you’re sitting right now? How about a plant? Anything living, besides other people? Can you open the window and take a big breath of fresh air?
If your answer to these questions is no, if you’re one of those people who spends all day breathing the lifeless output of a building-ventilation system, then you may be encountering a nature deficit. And it’s making your life less enjoyable, less healthy, and more stressed.
We know intuitively that we need green. Here are three ways to reconnect with nature in the midst of a busy modern life.
4 Simple Ways to Bring Nature Into Your Busy Life
1) Make a Relationship
“I have a daily practice where I sit in silence for 20 minutes and watch my breath,” says biologist David Haskell, author of The Forest Unseen. By painstakingly observing—every day for 12 months, sometimes for hours at a time—the trees, bushes, flowers, birds, and animals of one patch of forest, Haskell broke down the all-too-common perception that nature and humanity are separate.
We don’t have to take it to the lengths he did, but Haskell believes everyone can benefit from the practice of connecting with a natural phenomenon of our choice. “Pick something and give it your attention, repeatedly, for a year,” he suggests. “Trees, a park, flocks of pigeons. Most people don’t have the time to spend hundreds of hours looking at a forest. But it can be a short practice, just committing a few minutes each day.”
2) Restore Yourself
Landscape architect David Kamp was part of a team that created a channel garden at New York City’s Rockefeller Center. “It’s right in the middle of Manhattan, one of the busiest tourist spots in the city,” says Kamp. “We tried to create a place with intimacy, where someone could pause in their busy day, where you could just stop for a minute. Sometimes if you just pause, your frame of mind changes.”
3) Get Dirty
The folks who urban-garden love the food they grow, but they love something else just as much. “They get a chance to be outside, to have a break from their indoor lives, their computer lives,” says Brooke Budner, one of the operators of Little City Gardens in San Francisco.
“Digging in the dirt is in our DNA,” says landscape designer Peter Goode. “It’s harder to do that in the urban environments most of us live in now, but it’s not all that hard. Get out there on a sunny weekend, plant a seed, and take a kid with you. You’ll love it.”
4) Appreciate Your Surroundings
“Over human history nature has become ‘other,’ something separate,” says Lauren Oakes, a researcher at Stanford University, who measures the evidence of climate change on the environment. “I actually physically feel something when I stand in a forest that’s alive and healthy, than one that’s dead. As a person I naturally feel responsible for things. How does that knowledge affect us? What role does hope play in a connection to that resource?”
Understanding the role we play in protecting our natural environment is an essential step towards ensuring it not only survives, but thrives.
“That word, sustainable, sounds to most people like survival,” says Louv. “The bare minimum. That doesn’t get most people excited. Obviously, survival is important but we weren’t put here just to survive, we were put here to create. What if we could begin to imagine a nature-rich future with new kinds of cities, homes and neighborhoods? New kinds of workplaces? If we don’t aim much higher than sustainability, we’ll never reach it.”
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