Wanna be happier? Reconnect with nature. (+ 10 ideas how to do it.)

We all feel shitty every now and then, and, sure enough, I recently had one of those periods. A terrible cycle of summer depression (hello, summer depression!) stroke and I did not know what to do. I went to work, I came back, I could not write, I could not eat, I could not sleep. One thing led to another and my experiments started failing, I did not know what I was doing, I was way less productive than I wanted and life became really hard. Around the same time, my husband went for a week long trip and I stayed home alone in this terrible condition.

It ceased after a while. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of meditation, diligent spiritual practices, mini workouts, good food, Martha Beck’s wisdom and all that jazz. But there was something very surprising and tiny that made me feel disproportionally better. You will never guess what it was. Here:

It was a box of oyster mushrooms. I am not kidding. A box of mushrooms.

Before he left, my husband got us a grow-your-own-mushrooms kit. We started watering them but nothing was happening for quite some time. And then one day, I got home from work, exhausted and sad, and I saw that a piece of foil over the top of the mushroom box has lifted up. New mushrooms have started pinning. A rush of joy overwhelmed me. A new life was formed. Wow!

Over the following days, I was watching my mushrooms closely. Every morning I could notice their growth. Every afternoon I could also see the difference. It felt like a magic. A box of mushrooms brought me so much ridiculous, child-like joy. Of course, I knew that mushrooms grow quickly when you water them. But this time I was immersed in the process. This time I was present and appreciative of the miracle of life. This time I was so sad and stuck that the progress of my mushrooms was the spark of light and hope in my day.

I started thinking about the reasons why the box of mushrooms made me so happy. And it clicked. It was a reconnection with nature. I felt stuck, stagnant, trapped and seeing a new life sprouting, moving, changing, taking new shape and form made me feel the motion, the dynamics, the hope for change. Witnessing the miracle of new life closely made me envision something bright for myself.

A Course in Miracles teaches that we think we have multiple problems, while in fact we only have one: losing the connection with God. And “God” means divine intelligence, source energy, nature, life, a miraculous organizational power of the universe that creates everything that we know.

And what are we doing? We are spending endless hours in air-conditioned rooms, with neon lighting, in front of the screens, in big cities, stuck in the traffic, rolling through our Facebook feed. The depression creeps in. We start feeling miserable, seemingly without any special cause. We break (or should I say, ignore) our bond with nature and we start feeling lost.

But the good news is that we can always notice this and go back to the roots. We can always revive the connection with nature (and hence the connection with our own nature). We can embrace this magical connection and become happier and more grounded.

You may think that reconnection with nature means that you have to move to Kilimanjaro for 6 months. Hell no. Reconnection with nature can be quick, easy and completely available to all of us on a daily basis. Here are 10 quick and applicable ideas on how to reconnect with nature and be happier. Enjoy.

1. Breathe with the trees

Whenever you breathe out, the plants and trees are taking the breath in. Whenever you take a breath in, plants and trees are taking the breath out. We are exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, we are breathing together. We are sharing the same molecules and we are communicating. We are feeding and building each other. Because we are one. Next time you find yourself close to a tree or a plant, focus on this idea. Breathe together with it. This breathing exercise will help you not only relax but connect with nature in no time.

2. Walk barefoot

If we want to stay grounded, we have to touch the ground. Walking barefoot is a great practice because it strengthens our feet, keep us aware of our surrounding and walking. The ground also absorbs free electrons through our feet, which has an antioxidant effect. Research has shown that walking barefoot also helps with sleep disturbances and stress. All of this should be enough motivation for you to take off your shoes and take big steps toward grass lawn, sandy beach or nearby park and reconnect with Mother Earth.

3. Grow a garden/plant

My story of mushroom farm gives a powerful example of how careful observation of a life cycle fosters joy and connection with nature. Don’t wait any longer. Plant a garden. It can be a community garden, tiny balcony garden or anything that you are able to manage. If you don’t have space for a garden, a few jars of herbs and spices are equally effective. I have a veggie membership at the local farm, which is terrific because it provides benefits of gardening (grounding, reconnection with nature, a joy of new life sprouting and yes, fresh veggies) without necessary hard work, so consider that option, too. Finally, you can always go to a park and see what is going on with the plants on a regular basis. Either way, this practice will sparkle your sense of wonder, gratitude and remind you that miracles are happening slowly, naturally and all around us.

4. Play with a pet

Pets are cool and playful and cute and funny and they have their own personalities and encounter each moment with joy. They also remind us to do the same. Each animal embodies numerous virtues and qualities that stem from Mother Nature. Animals remind us how to be better humans. Foster loving relationships with pets and other animals and you will be happier and more fulfilled.

5. Eat seasonally

We’ve collectively been fighting to have all types of food available on the shelves of Walmart year long. And we made it. We can buy pretty much anything at any time of the year. Except that it sucks. Watermelons that you buy around Christmas (assuming that you live on the Northern hemisphere) have traveled half of the world to get where you are. They are full of chemicals and preservatives that keep them in a good shape. Not to even mention the fuel consumption needed for their transport. It’s not a very green eating option.

The solution: eat seasonally. Go to farmers’ market and pick up the stuff that is in the season. Now (I am writing this on July 21st on the Northern hemisphere) is the perfect time for watermelons, melons, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, asparagus, aubergines, peaches, nectarines and many more goodies. When we are eating seasonally, we are minimizing our impacts on the environment, we are eating healthier and we are connecting with nature. When we eat fruit and veggies that are in season, all of our five senses are reminded: “Hey, it’s the summer! Enjoy.” And we dive into the magic of the present moment and the season we are in.

6. Honor the seasons

Nature does not function like a factory. Each natural process is seasonal and cyclical. First, we have 4 seasons: spring summer, fall, and winter. Then there are also lunar cycles. Circadian cycles are pretty clear: every day is a new cycle. Women are well aware of their menstrual cycles. Masters of martial arts will tell you that every action consists of three phases: preparation, execution, and recovery. In our lives, we also have seasons and phases. Our lives are not straight lines with an upward slope. Our lives are rather series of phases and cycles and seasons, weird, deformed spirals in which we repeat the lessons and become who we are. Why do we then expect to feel the same way and do the same things regardless of the season? Why are we constantly skipping recovery, hibernation, winter phases of everything and expect to consistently be productive and bear fruit? It is impossible, unnatural, even counter productive. (I covered this topic in the post linked below.)

How can we honor the seasons better? First, let’s reconnect with nature and acknowledge in which season we are in. Then let’s embrace the beauty and transience of each season. Let’s be present with ourselves, wherever we are. And then we can let it go and transition to a new season gracefully and embrace its beauty. Rest, hibernation, recovery and seemingly unproductive parts of the cycle are preparation for something bigger and better and thus should be welcomed.

7. Slow down

Everything in nature happens slowly, gradually and without a struggle. Nature is never in the rush and always gets everything done. To connect with nature we have to leave our neck-breaking pace of life behind, learn how to slow down and dive into a present moment. If we want to enjoy anything, a bowl of ice cream or a beautiful sunset, we have to slow down and be present. Too often we think that we will miss out if we don’t speed up. Ironically, the truth is that if we don’t slow down, we miss out on all the beauty in front of us.

Take a slow walk and give yourself time to look, listen and absorb what is around you. Sit in the park and breathe deeply and slowly. Water your garden carefully and without rush, like it’s not just another chore on your to-do list. To connect to nature we have to tune into its gentle and pleasant pace.

8. Sit by the water

60% of our bodies consists of water. 70% of our planet is water. It is not surprising then that we have a special and beautiful connection with the water. Water has a magical power to make us calm, present and observant. Solely the act of coming close to the water brings us into the state of mind that Wallace Nichols calls “Blue Mind”, aware, peaceful and contemplative. (He also defines two other states of mind: Red Mind-anxious, crazy busy, and Grey Mind- lethargic.) When we get into the water, hundreds of our muscles that are resisting gravity relax immediately and we feel held and supported. Our reconnection with nature can be done through the water. Sit by the river, lake, sea or ocean, whichever is the most available. Get into the water. Swim. Surf. Step into the sea or lake. Also, for more info on Blue Mind and science of water, check out the interview with Wallace Nichols at UnmistakableCreative, it is quite amazing.

9. Take photos

Photography is an amazing practice that makes us appreciate the visual beauty of the world around us. It makes us more perceptive, mindful and appreciative. Start a photo album named “Nature” and capture whatever in nature grabs your attention: leaves, flowers, trees, birds, butterflies, animals, beaches, landscapes, sunsets. There is a myriad of ideas, just open your eyes.

10. Come to your senses and enjoy

Mother Nature gratifies all of our five senses, all we have to do is to tune in. We already talked about the visual beauty in the idea #9. Take your headphones out and listen to birds, crickets, the wind in the canopies of the trees. Feel the scent of lavender, pine trees and the sea under the rays of the sun. Touch the tree bark, feel the breeze in your hair and the grass underneath your bare feet (idea #2). Take a nice bite of juicy watermelon (idea #5). Reconnection with nature is the synthesis of multi-dimensional experiences. Come to your five senses and enjoy on every level.

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever noticed how reconnection with nature makes you happier? If so, please leave the comment below. What is your favorite way to reconnect with nature?

Before you go

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Engineer. Creator. Sustainability researcher. Obsessed w/focus, mental health, sobriety. On the quest to find gentler and more meaningful ways to live and work.