9 Ways for City Dwellers to Feel Closer to Nature

Public Domain. Unsplash – Winter view, NYC

Bird feeders, parks, and early morning walks can offer a mental boost.

When you live in a large town or city and much of what you see is cars and concrete, nature can seem pretty far away. But as a recent article in the Guardian points out, there are numerous ways to feel closer to nature and reap its rejuvenating rewards, even when you live in a built-up urban setting.

The key is to figure out how to access or create small natural oases close to home. Once discovered, these can help counteract the feelings of stress and overwhelm that come from too much time in a busy, loud urban setting. So how does one do this? Here are suggestions, some of which come from the Guardian article and some from urban-dwelling TreeHugger staff.

1. Plant a garden. You don't have to have a big backyard for this; even a tiny patch of yard, front or back, will do. Container gardens and potted plants are a good alternative too, and can fit on a balcony.

2. Adjust your routine. Schedule time daily or weekly to spend outside, even if it's just walking to work or spending lunch hour in a park or sipping coffee by an open window. Take a longer stroll to work that follows shady, treelined streets.

3. Join or make an outdoors group. My cousin hikes with a group of girlfriends in Toronto every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. It's a routine that she has grown to love. Other friends sign up for downhill skiing and snowboarding groups that shuttle them to slopes outside the city every weekend. You can find cycling, birding, boating, and walking groups in every community. Start doing some research or create your own.

4. Look up green spaces. Search online for all the parks, ravines, lakes, and forests in your area and make a point of visiting them all. You'll probably discover places you never knew about before and that you'll want to return to.

5. Get up early. Go for a walk, run, or bike ride first thing in the morning when the city is still quiet. You'll see more wildlife that way and enjoy the fresh, cool air. Try to note five beautiful things as a way of engaging your attention.

6. Rent a room with a view. If you can, choose a place to live that has a view of nature. TreeHugger's managing editor Melissa enjoys her fourth-floor vantage point that allows her to see lots of trees. Get some binoculars to look at the birds.

7. Eat outside. I try to do this as much as possible during the summer months, packing dinner in a box and taking my family to a park, waterfront, or landmark to eat. When that's too much effort, a backyard or balcony will do.

8. Install a bird feeder. If you can't get into nature, bring it to you. Set up a bird feeder in your yard or on a balcony and you'll have year-round entertainment. My 91-year-old grandmother spends hours watching her bird feeder each day; it's a source of great joy for her, and can be for you, too.

9. Learn to identify species. As soon as you know something's official name, you'll start seeing it everywhere. Make a point of learning the names of flowers, plants, trees, and birds, and this knowledge becomes a password to a world you may not have noticed before.