We lead busy lives and spending time in green spaces – in nature – is not valued by our society. Instead we are told it is a waste of time, a luxury and something that is not a priority as it takes you away from being ‘productive’.
And yet many of us crave more time with nature – it helps us feel calm, whole and connected to our true selves and the more-than-human.
We want to step out of the noise of daily life, news and social media and soften into stillness and listening and depth.
Two years ago I was exactly the same. Desperate for more mud between my toes, wind in my hair and birdsong in my soul. Over time I have developed simple habits that get me outside and ground me each day, even when life feels too much – and I’m sharing them with you here.
Pick one of three simple habits to help you get into a routine of spending meaningful time outside and see how they fit for you. You may want to adapt them to better suit you and your daily life.
1. Tea and wonder
Time: 2 minutes
Start and end each day by either stepping into your garden or looking out of your window for a few minutes with a cup of tea/drink of choice. Weave it into your morning and evening rituals.
For example, I automatically make a cup of tea each morning. When I do this it reminds me to step outside and look at the sky and animals, listen to the birdsong and feel the cool or heat on my face before I go back in to empty the dishwasher.
Similarly in the evening I have got into such a habit of looking at the sky before bed that it doesn’t feel right to snuggle under the duvet until I have stepped outside or looked out of the open window to feel the wind on my face.
2. Daily walk*
Time: 10 minutes
Get into a habit of getting outside for a walk* or, if this is difficult for you, gazing out of an open window or paying loving attention to a pot plant. Is there something you do every day that can remind you to get outside, e.g. dropping the children off at school or after you have finished lunch?
Every morning after dropping my little one off at school I go straight into a walk or run or bike ride outside. These outdoor trips started off as just a short, 10 minute walk and have over time evolved into an hour outside each morning. I am in such a habit of doing this that on the days I do feel I ‘should’ get straight on with my work, I feel wrong and fuzzy headed – my body craves the time outside.
My morning walk also helps to remind me of my values – love and interconnectedness – which then steer the rest of my day.
If you'd like your walk to have a focus (I find a focus helps motivate me) then you may enjoy my simple, printable nature guides that gently introduce you a different plant or tree from summer poppies to winter pines.
3. Tap into one of your senses
Time: 3 minutes
Often it is the quality of the time we spend outside that matters more than the amount of time outside in green spaces. When you are in nature and realise you are being sucked into your thoughts rather than noticing what is around you, pause and tune into one of your senses.
For example, I might stop and look at the clouds, hear the rustle of leaves in the wind, smell the Hawthorn blossom, taste the sweet end of a grass stalk or feel the sun on my face.
Deepening your experience of being in a green space through your senses will help you to feel more connected. Afterall, we could go on a 10k run (if you are so inclined!) but if we do it all listening to music with headphones on and only looking at the road ahead it likely won’t feel like we have soaked up the stillness around us or felt any connection with trees and butterflies!
Remember – getting into a habit helps you to spend quality time outside without even thinking about it.
Let me know how you get on in the comments below.