For the month of September, I challenged myself to spend thirty minutes a day in nature - be that the woods, a backyard, or a city park. I was super excited when few others joined in the challenge as well! You can see some of our adventures here:
I started off pretty strong, but by the last week of September, my resolve was crumbling. In a cloud of a crazy work crush, I missed several days because I told myself I didn’t have time — I couldn’t spend the 30 minutes in the park, plus the travel time.
Much like how people who declare they have no time to meditate actually need to meditate more than anyone, feeling like I had no time for this challenge was evidence of how sorely I needed time in nature. I was spending hours hunched in front of my computer, on design and event planning projects. The piece de resistance was my 12 hour Saturday in a Manhattan hotel ballroom — possibly the furthest place from nature known to man.
Though I don't anticipate the madness of the end of September happening again anytime soon, it'd be silly to think I won't be stressing or overworked again sometime in the future. So, some revisions to the challenge are in order. I told myself I didn't have time for 30 minutes each day --- I chose 30 minutes because of it meshed nicely with the 30 day in September, but there’s no real reason for that amount of time.
If I want to get all science-y, one small study of kids with ADHD found that just 20 minutes in the park helped the kids with their concentration. A series of small Japanese studies found that a 3 day trip in forest lead to a boost in immune function. As someone with a history of cancer, that definitely means a lot to me. And the research goes on and on. (Tech Insider provides a nice roundup. )
So, what are we shooting for then, somewhere between 20 minutes and three days in nature? It’s tempting for me to quantify my dosage of green, but I realize that that’s not really the point.
The point is to make nature a part of my daily routine in a way that makes sense for me - and that’s going to involve a certain amount of trial and error.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far. In the mountains, nature time is effortless. So good, nothing to change there. In the city, it takes some doing to pull my butt away from the computer and walk to the park. Here were some things that helped:
- Bringing Pancho
- Because dogs are the best.
- Exploring new places
- My local parks are pretty small, so incorporating the nature requirement into my travels around NYC kept things fresh, and I discovered some hidden gems that I’d never been to before.
- Killing two birds
- Not literally of course! I found that having another activity that I was doing at the same time helped. So I went to the park and meditated, or went to the park and wrote. In the future I’ll try drawing. (One study found that nature increased creativity, so bonus!)
I'm making daily nature time a part of my permanent routine -- not because OMG I felt amazing on day 2, and I lost weight and my wrinkles disappeared and my cat stopped trying to kill me. Because that's not how, ya know, life works. I know this is good for me, and all of us hoomins, because of the subtle changes I experience. The unexpected moments of joy and beauty.