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5 Ways to Recommune With Nature (and Find Your Zen)
This article initially ran in Out magazine read the original on Out.com.
In the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s good to get some time to yourself to find your own personal nirvana. Now that everyday life is anything but normal and the hustle and bustle are so much more intense, we need those solo escapes more than ever.
Even if you work from home and feel like you’re always by yourself, finding “me time” is important. Escaping allows you to get out of your head and shake up your routine — two things that are necessary to maintain your mental and physical health during times like these. Now is the time to invest in a good backpack and some comfortable walking shoes, make sure you pack plenty of water, and discover (or maybe rediscover) all sorts of ways you can connect with nature, and yourself, without anyone’s permission. Here are five easy ways to achieve that.
Nothing is quite like finding a trail and going off into nature by yourself. Pack up your backpack with a snack, water, a light jacket, and maybe something like a basic first aid kit, a fire-starter, and a LifeStraw, plus a camera or binoculars. Find a trail in nearby woods or hills in a guidebook, on a map, or using apps, and then experience the most peaceful and beautiful kind of quiet you’ve ever heard in your life.
EXPLORE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Find new places right around the corner you didn’t know existed by experiencing your neighborhood. “I started taking my dog on long walks around my neighborhood and realized that a little dead-end street led me right to the L.A. River,” says queer artist Molly Ostertag. “I didn’t realize how beautiful it is down there — sure, there’s trash, but there’s so many plants and birds and the sound of running water. I like to go at sunset and watch as the mountains turn pink.” If you don’t live near a river, take a look on an app like Google Maps and search for “historic landmarks” and “tourist attractions” to find somewhere to go that you’ve never been before.
The first step to foraging local edible plants and fungi is to do your research. Look online for foraging groups or people in your city or state. These online groups are full of pictures and tips to help you find out which plants are safe to eat and delicious, and how to safely cook them. Then head off to a wilderness area or park where foraging is allowed and look for the berries, seeds, fungi, and leaves you’ve learned about. (Also be sure to learn the deadly plants to avoid!) After a while you’ll build a mental map of where you can find food.
There’s something healing about standing in the water. Walk to the shore of the ocean, a river, a lake, a creek, or a reservoir near you, take off your shoes, and stand ankle deep. As you take deep breaths, focus on the feeling of the sand beneath your feet, the cool water on your legs, the sun on your face, and the air in your lungs. Just forget everything else and be in the moment.
It may seem boring at first to walk around identifying wildlife, but just try it once and you’ll fall in love. You can use the app iNaturalist or the simpler version, Seek! Both are projects of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. All you have to do is take a picture of a living thing in nature and submit it, and the app will automatically try to tell you what it is based on the picture and your location. You can also use the app Merlin Bird ID, which will show you which birds you’re likely to see and hear based on your location and the time of year, and help you identify the ones you do.