One of our family’s favorite spots is the Davis Mountains in West Texas, home to the second darkest night skies in the U.S. We love to go there for the magical starry nights where the Milky Way can easily be seen without a telescope and for the sparsely populated terrain and the vast wilderness. For years we made this annual digital detox a priority. We’d unplug and hike, stargaze, sleep and read. This journey brought us back to ourselves and to one another.
Nature opens me up to the now; to the present moment. It allows me to access wisdom and insights I never could have in my 24/7 modern life. I never cease to be amazed by the ideas and clarity that often bubble up after a weekend at the ocean or a day in the cool, dark woods.
Time in nature is often referred to as the ultimate antidepressant because it affects us physically, mentally and emotionally. Being outdoors alleviates stress, positively affects our mood/overall mental health, helps us to “reset,” promotes cognitive functioning, fosters problem solving and creativity, supports work/life balance, stimulates social interactions and helps family connection and intimacy. Whew! Yes, all that!
Spending time in nature should be as natural and regular as breathing. Not something we save for a special occasion–but something that is built into our daily flow.
If it’s been years since you’ve spent time outdoors, or perhaps you feel out of your element chasing bears and mountain lions, consider the following 10 ideas to help “get thee outdoors!”:
•Team up. Ask your nature loving friends for advice on local spots, and join them on their next excursion to discover hidden gems in your area. Maybe you even set up a weekly or monthly “nature date” with family or friends, and rotate which park or natural area you visit (let the kids choose!).
•Stay close to home. Get to know your own backyard, street, neighborhood park, streams/trails and any natural areas within walking distance. Don’t feel hemmed in by your urban or suburban home turf. Seek out all the green spaces you can find: botanical gardens, sculpture gardens, a rooftop garden, a neighbor’s outdoor space, a school playground, or even an open plaza or square where you can watch the birds and squirrels.
•Get campy. Dare yourself to go camping. This can be a wonderful experience for families; invite a group of friends to join you. Take it slow and easy: sleep in “camping cabins” or set up a tent in your own backyard!
•Plan a picnic. Pack a simple picnic of cold food, grab a blanket and head to your closest park; everyone loves the spontaneity of picnics on a weeknight or on a lazy Sunday evening!
•Make it a game. If hiking is no draw, play outdoor games like soccer, horseshoes, Wiffle ball, and Frisbee golf — or turn exploration into a competition: Who can spot the most squirrels, birds, or bats, or find the most unusual rocks or shells?
•Tune into nature’s rhythms. Consider marking the full moon, new moon, or equinox with a hike, outdoor drum circle, or swim — we all love ritual, and it can be a fun, meaningful way to connect to nature’s rhythms.
•Create new habits. Make nature a daily or weekly habit. Head to a local park after work to help you unwind before dinner or have your morning coffee on the back porch and make it a point to see what birds are in your backyard. After dinner walks in your neighborhood are relaxing and help everyone prepare for good sleep.
•Tap local groups for help. Contact your state park office and ask about their family or outdoor programs. Also visit the websites for REI, the Sierra Club and the Children and Nature Network — founded by my friend Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods — to learn about family-oriented events in your area.
•Be adventurous. Experience nature’s “wild side” and do something you’ve never done before! National parks are ideal for this, since they preserve our continent’s natural treasures and usually maintain accessible, family- friendly facilities. Or choose an “extreme” activity: go sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, zip-lining, rock climbing, snowshoeing. Perhaps consider swapping homes with another family in a natural area you’d like to visit; try using a service like Home Exchange.
Even getting outside at night in a place where you can see the stars — and taking in their amazing vastness — is enough. The experience always reminds me of how small and inconsequential my worries are.
Nature is one of the greatest gifts we have available. In our galaxy, the sun is one of a hundred billion stars. Now how important is it to make sure you finish your laundry and your car gets washed again? Pick up a copy of my book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life to get more great ideas on how to immerse yourself (and your family) in the healing power of nature!
HOW CAN I SUPPORT YOU? HERE ARE THREE OPPORTUNITIES:
- April 14-16 ~ Awakening Your Wild Soul: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, my favorite retreat center (this deeply replenishing, multi-dimensional retreat always sells out). Retreat packages start at just $650. Learn more.
- Download a self-care retreat today! ~ Susan shared, “Thank you so much for your amazing work! I find your blog, books and retreats to be so powerful and spot-on in terms of what I need to hear! Bravo Renee, this virtual retreat was amazing!” Check out our award-winning life balance audio classes and books–available 24/7 to enjoy from the comfort of your home, car, or bathtub! Starting at $49. Learn more.
- Wild Souls Nature Adventures (based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC): authentic movement classes, community song circles, full moon hikes, meditation workshops, women’s circles & more. New offerings listed each week; have me design a custom experience for your team/friends. Join us Feb. 26th for Wild Souls Authentic Movement Learn more.