Living in a city definitely has its perks--you can have most things you need or want in you fingertips just by walking a few blocks. Well, most things that is. When it comes to being surrounded by rolling hills and connecting with nature on a deep level, city life definitely falls flat.
There’s something fundamentally human about needing to indulge in nature--it connects us with our history of hunting and gathering, our lives before we spent several hours a day cooped up in doors and staring and screens. In fact, research shows that being connected to nature can have several short and long term benefits on health.
If you’re looking for a break from the suffocation of city buildings and overcrowded sidewalks, don’t worry. While it may seem like indulging in nature and living a busy life in the city are mutually exclusive, you don’t have to scrap your studio apartment just to connect with nature. Here are several ways you can discover and interact with nature while living in the city, and how you will feel more grounded and at ease because of them.
Learn about your city’s parks:
Most cities have parks or green spaces where residents are free to walk, bike, utilize trails and sports fields. Start by doing some research about the different locations of parks in your city so you can figure out what amenities they offer and how to best access them.
Be on the lookout for community-hosted events open to the public that utilize some of these spaces. They serve as a great reason to get out of the house and explore an unfamiliar part of the city while socializing with others also interested in connecting with nature.
But even if you’d prefer to explore your city’s parks alone, knowing more about them is a great place to start. After that, you just need to make an effort to go out and use them. Think about how you can incorporate some of the things you already do with your city’s green spaces. Do you like to run? Find a park with a path you would enjoy exploring. Like to draw? Sit down on a bench and take a shot recreating some of nature's details with a pencil and piece of paper.
Visit zoos and botanical gardens:
While these places may not have occurred as naturally to you as some of your city’s parks and green spaces, they can still provide the opportunity to step outside your city realm and immerse yourself with plants and animals that you wouldn’t come across during a normal day in the city.
Take care of a plant:
If you’re looking for something manageable, buying a plant is a step you can take to easily bring a small dose of nature into your life. Plants can serve as a daily reminder of nature, even if you can’t get outside and experience it the way you want to do every day of the week.
If you’re someone with little experience taking care of plants, don’t worry. There are a variety of online resources you can turn to so you can learn tips to help your new plants live as long as possible.
Install a bird feeder:
If you think bird feeders are only for trees in the suburbs, then think again. Bird feeders installed on your apartment window or hung out on your balcony can actually help attract birds if you’re willing to put in a little effort. Once you’re able to attract birds outside of your city window, you can begin to watch them as well, which can make for a fun hobby in your spare time without having to leave your house. Installing a bird feeder can be a great way to bring nature to you, especially if your job or daily responsibilities cause you to spend a lot of time at home.
Clean up trash:
It’s no secret that cities are dirty. Cleaning up trash probably doesn’t seem like the most fun or glamorous way to interact with nature. However, helping to maintain the green spaces and parks in your city will not only make them more enjoyable to use, but it will also restore a sense of pride in your city as well as an appreciation for nature. Cleaning up a dropped water bottle on your way to work is one way to do your part, but if you’re looking for something a little bigger, consider volunteering for an organization like Keep America Beautiful, a national nonprofit that encourages people to end littering and keep their communities clean.
Visit farmers markets:
Instead of going to a supermarket chain for your groceries, get up on a Saturday morning and head to a farmer’s market instead. Not only will this give you the opportunity to buy fresh and locally grown food, it will also support farmers financially by allowing them to sell their products directly to customers. While most farmers markets are not open year round, participating in the farm-to-table movement when you can will make you think differently about the food you eat and where it comes from. You’ll likely feel more connected to nature and the constant role it plays in your life as a result.
Bike riding and walking:
Finding time every day to get outside for a walk or bike ride is a simple but effective way to develop a connection to nature as well as the community you live in. Taking the same route everyday can help establish routine and familiarity while also drawing your attention to changes that occur in nature over time. But you have the initiative--go as far as your feet or bike wheels will take you and explore the city you live in. Breathing in fresh air and noticing the nature of your city can help you feel grounded to the earth and where you live.
Starting a nature journal:
Have you ever seen something happen in your surroundings that you want to capture and replay over and over again? Writing down the little snip bits of nature that stand out to you every day can help train your mind to focus more on the world around you.
Try carrying a pocket notebook and pen on walks or when out and about in public. If you see something that strikes you as particularly beautiful or intriguing, write it down. Or, if you’d prefer to reflect at the end of your day, take 15 minutes to jot down some of the things you heard and saw as you think back on what you did that day.
Unplug and observe what’s around you:
It’s hard to pay attention to nature when caught up in the activity happening on the multitude of screens that surround you on a daily basis. Stepping away from your phone (and all of the notifications and work-related stress that comes with it) can have a huge impact when it comes to helping you pay more attention to the environment around you.
Taking a few minutes out of your day to go outside and watch the sun set or look at the night sky can not only be a relaxing way to think about something other than the stressors of daily life, it can also help remind you that you’re surrounded by nature every minute of every day.
While ways to experience and connect with nature may not seem as visible in the city as they do elsewhere, this does not mean that they don’t exist. Whether you want to engage with nature from the comfort of your apartment or in a public park, there are several ways you can bring nature into your life and feel more grounded because of it.