The changing of the year is always a good time to reflect on what you want out of life, and a lot of people find that it's a good time to make resolutions for the year ahead.
I have to confess I'm not a huge fan of new year's resolutions. I much prefer to work on forming lasting habits on an ongoing basis. Apart from that, we all tend to pile so much pressure on ourselves to be fit, healthy and happy, and successful, that we often set ourselves unattainable goals, and are disappointed with ourselves when we don't achieve them. Resolutions can add to the sense of overwhelm that many of us feel in our daily lives. So I'm actually going to actively discourage you from making any new year's resolutions at all. (Phew! I hear you say...)
What I am going to encourage you to do, however, regardless of the time of year, is to spend more time connecting with the natural world. There's good reason for this for all of us: spending time with nature has been scientifically proven to have health benefits such as better short-term memory, increased resilience, a reduction in stress, better concentration, improved creativity and strategic thinking, as well as boosting our immune systems and aiding our mental health.
So here are just a few suggestions of things you can do, any time, to get closer to nature, with relatively little time and effort.
1. Get out into the country
Nothing beats getting out into nature itself. Lose yourself in the mountains, forests or on the coast. You will come back feeling refreshed, and with a better sense of perspective about life. Walk in forests, swim in lakes, climb mountains. This is also the ideal place to visit if you have to make big life decisions.
So plan your weekends and holidays, and make this happen. It will be worth it.
2. Visit your local wildlife hotspots
If getting out into the country is too far, or you need a quicker hit of nature, head to your local park, botanical garden, or conservatory. Most towns have a botanical garden of some kind, and local parks often have gorgeous flowering displays. At the very least, they have trees. And trees are EXCELLENT.
Walk along the canal, visit a river, local lake or pond, or climb to the top of the tallest nearby hill. All of these things are possible, even if you live in the heart of a major city. Plus, the exercise you get walking round a park, or exercising once you're there, will contribute to your sense of wellbeing.
3. Surround yourself with nature
Let's face it, most of us millennials don't have gardens or even outdoor space. So it can be quite hard to feel at one with nature. But you'll be surprised at the difference indoor plants can make to a space, and to the way we feel.
Even just adding one plant to a desk, shelf or living room can make THE BIGGEST difference to the atmosphere of a place.
Recent studies have also shown that having plants in a workplace even improved productivity. Plants make us feel good about our spaces, and in turn make us feel good about ourselves.
4. Spend time gardening
If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor space of any kind - be it a balcony, or terrace, or even just an outdoor windowsill, you can go a step further and do a spot of actual gardening.
Getting a back to nature and creating beautiful displays of plants is an incredibly creative and relaxing outlet for energy. It comes bundled with a guaranteed sense of satisfaction.
And whilst you're there, take some time to appreciate the beauty of the knot of roots in each plant, or the shape of the leaves. Marvel at the seeming perfection of petals, and notice the imperfections too. Cultivate your sense of wonder.
5. Learn about plants
Whether you are an indoor gardener or an outdoor gardener, it can be incredibly rewarding to learn just the basics about the plants you have in your home. Caring for plants doesn't have to be time consuming, especially if you know just a tiny bit about each of the plants you own. Grab yourself a gardening book, or simply google the plant you're interested in, and you will find a whole encyclopedia of information at your fingertips.
6. Share nature with others
Humans have cultivated flowering plants for over 5000 years, for no other reason than that it makes us feel good. We all know from personal experience that receiving plants and flowers makes us feel good. But rather than giving cut flowers, which only last a few days (or at most, weeks), a plant symbolises an ongoing living connection to that person and to their friendship, and creates a lasting connection with nature in our homes. Giving gifts is also proven to improve our sense of wellbeing and overall happiness, so everyone's a winner!
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