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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.

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