9 Ways to Harness the Power of Nature When You Can't Go Outdoors

I have always loved nature. Over the past 12 years, my relationship with nature has changed dramatically. My health no longer permits rigorous hiking, extensive portaging or strenuous mountain biking. Nature is less about a challenge to conquer, and has become more a source of renewal and healing. Science is even proving that time spent outdoors can have a calming, rejuvenating effect on your mental and physical health. Even just viewing nature has shown some benefit in reducing stress, anxiety, depression and other psychiatric conditions.

But what if you can’t access the outdoors? For nearly two years this has been often the case for me. My health hasn’t allowed for it. Although not a cure, harnessing the power of nature has helped me cope. Here are some ways I incorporate nature into my routine when I can’t just march into a forest.

1. Draw open the blinds and open a window. Simple yet profound.

2. Incorporate pictures of nature in your space. This can look like posting photos beside your bed, or around your room. You can even make your desktop background on your laptop or phone wallpaper a nature scene. My favorite mug I use in bed has a nature scene on it.

painting of a tree by the author

3. Have a friend bring nature to you. Cedar boughs are my favorite and are especially fragrant. Try colorful leaves in the autumn, flowers in the summertime, stones or sand from your favorite beach that you can put in a jar on your bedside table.

4. Grow nature in your home. House plants are a great way to incorporate nature. Succulents and cacti are hardy and do best with neglect. Spider plants and snake plants can help purify the air you breathe, and are easy to grow with or without a green thumb. My bedroom has transformed into a miniature jungle.

5. The use of essential oils. Whether using a few drops in a diffuser, bathwater or rubbed on the wrists, you will feel immersed in a forest in no time. There are so many scents to choose from. My favorites include balsam fir, Texas cedarwood and pine. (Incense works great too!)

6. Play nature sounds as low ambient background noise. There are tons of YouTube videos with hours of babbling brooks, campfire crackles, birds chirping, thunderstorms and waves crashing to the caws of seagulls. You name the nature sound, there’s a recording for it.

7. Visualization exercises. Although not for everyone, visualization exercises can promote deep relaxation. Close your eyes and imagine being in your favorite place with all of your senses. What do you see around you? What do you hear? What does the ground feel like beneath your feet? Is there a particular scent to the air? Visit this place as much as you like.

8. Create a night sky on your ceiling. I had a friend surprise me once by filling my ceiling with tiny glow-in-the-dark circle stickers. When I turn out the lights now, I am under a celestial canopy of stars.

9. Have someone set up bird feeders by your windows. Watching birds has helped me on days when I am unable to do much else.

You can take the girl out of the wilderness, but you can’t take the wilderness out of the girl. In other words, it’s hard being parted from the places we love. I hope these suggestions will bring nature a bit closer to you, and you feel nestled in a forest as you heal.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

visual art created by the author

My Health Is Not a Punchline for Your Jokes

Years ago I attended a convention that brought together students from medical programs to compete in various sports in camaraderie. Having ME/CFS, I knew I was unable to participate in any of the competitive sports. I could attend the social events, and it was an opportunity to visit a new city with friends. Traveling with [...]

Reconciling With My Former Healthy Self

A friend of mine recently sent me a picture. The picture was from 12 years ago, two months before a virus would completely shatter my life. This was before the words ME/CFS ever left my lips, let alone heard by my ears. My friend carried on reminiscing about this golden era of our lives. His [...]
woman crossing her arms and leaning on a couch

19 Everyday Things I No Longer Do Because of Chronic Illness

Living in a state of constant pain and exhaustion, which can be caused by any number of serious, incurable illnesses, can slowly rob you of your life. Friends and family see us withdrawing from activities, and employers see us taking more sick days, being late and having difficulty concentrating on our jobs. These things are [...]
person's hand holding a tea light candle

To Those With ME/CFS Who Feel Like Giving Up

I’m talking to you, yes you. The person lying there in the dark. The person struggling with unbearable fatigue and pain. The person who feels like giving up. I’m talking to you (actually I’m whispering because I know noise hurts your head). And I’m telling you: Don’t give up. Not just yet. I know what it’s like [...]