A few weeks into social distancing measures and you’re probably feeling the effects of missing out on time in nature. Saphira’s put together a list of small ways to bring the outdoors inside with you.
Everything on this list is free or low-cost, and can be used to support your mental wellbeing – a bit of nature-based self-care for your new daily routine.
We know that many of you are financially feeling the crunch of these testing times – not to mention the health impacts on you and your loved ones. We hope that these suggestions play a part in keeping you optimistic in tough times.
If you’re struggling, consider a telehealth or in-person appointment with your local GP to set up a mental health care plan. Your psychologist of choice may be offering therapy via telehealth as well, allowing you to get mental health care from your home.
1. Read an Outdoorsy Book
There’s a TONNE of great reading material that’ll whisk you away to mountains and forests all over the world. I’m currently reading Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer, about the natural and cultural history of North American bryophytes – how niche, right? Your local library may be closed due to COVID-19, but most libraries give their users access to a huge range of online texts.
2. Camp on Your Balcony or in Your Backyard
I quickly realised when I was lamenting over how long it’d be until I could go camping again that my tent fits perfectly on my little verandah. For a bit of a laugh, I decided to go through with it. It honestly did cheer me up a bit.
3. Watch Some Adventure Docos
There’s a world of great nature and adventure docos beyond Sir David Attenborough (though he remains the uncontested King). They’re entertaining and informative, so go ahead and get schooled the fun way!
4. Enjoy a Nature-themed Movie
Probably the easiest way to get the outdoors indoors is through your TV. From inspirational movies like Wild to unbelievable true stories like Jungle, or Australian classics like Tomorrow When the War Began and can-barely-watch films like 127 Hours, there’s no shortage of adventurous entertainment to be had.
5. Whip Out an Outdoorsy Board Game
If the people in your household are getting along a little too well you might need to spice things up with a board game (we’re looking at you Monopoly). There are loads of board games with adventurous and natural undertones, like Arboretum, Wingspan, Ravine, and K2.
6. Play an Adventurous Video Game
If you’re looking for something zen and immersive, Walden or Yonder: The Cloudcatcher Chronicles (created by Brisbane-based game development studio Prideful Sloth) are two good options. Both really inspire awe for nature, and Yonder has some seriously impressive audio and sound, too. For something more fast-paced, try The Climb (Virtual Reality climbing) or The Forest (a first-person horror and strategy game).
7. Listen to Relaxing Nature Sounds
YouTube hosts an endless array of natural sounds recorded at creekbeds, within forests, and by the seaside. It’s an easy way to quickly relax and can help you sleep, too.
8. Edit Photos From Your Last Trip
Yes, those ones. The ones from that trip over a year ago that you wanted to turn into a cute coffee table book, or get printed on a massive canvas for your living room, or just put on Facebook. Check out this free class on editing nature shots in Lightroom to help you on your way.
9. Spend Time With Your Houseplants
Give your plants some extra TLC. Check if they need repotting (if the roots are bunched up against the sides of the container, they need a bigger pot), give them some fertiliser, and prune off dead branches, leaves and flowers to encourage growth. You can also modify your daily houseplant ritual to make it a mindfulness exercise by involving the senses.
For example, observe carefully whether your plants are thriving and blooming, or if they seem droopy or dormant. Feel the texture of the leaves with your fingers – or even stop and smell the flowers.
10. Celebrate Autumn With a Meal Made From Seasonal Produce
Channel your inner Gordon Ramsay and whip up a meal from seasonal produce to herald in the new season. Check out these recipes which feature autumnal delights like eggplants, avocado, mushroom, chestnuts, figs, and persimmon.
11. Do Some Nature Painting
Pick an inspiring landscape from your Instagram feed, take out your paint brushes (or stylus, if you prefer digital art) and try your hand at some art. If you feel clueless, check out this free course from The University of Newcastle or some of the free classes on Skillshare to learn basic techniques. For a real-life muse, sketch a flower growing on your balcony, the leaves of your houseplant, or the birdies in your backyard.
12. Meditate, Nature-style
We know that nature is good for mental health and there are several ways you can practice nature-based meditation indoors. One option is to find a quiet spot to try ‘leaves on the stream’, a meditation exercise used in acceptance and commitment therapy. Sit comfortably and imagine leaves floating down a creek in your mind, passing you by. In your mind, place your thoughts and worries on the leaves and let them go.
13. Have a Crack at Nature Journaling
How about putting together a spread from your last trip? Did you spot any wildlife? Who did you go camping with? Any memorable moments? Was it your first time out since the bushfires of 2019 – how had the landscape changed? Include sketches or photos if you like. Check out this guide to nature journaling by Australian nature artist Paula Peeters for inspiration and tips.
14. Take a Nature-based Online Course
There are several online platforms which offer free courses on all kinds of topics related to nature. Try out this course on Rights and Values in Ecosystem Services, or this one from the University of Iceland about monitoring volcanoes.
The University of Wageningen can teach you about the basics of animal behaviour and nature-based metropolitan solutions (think sustainable city design and green spaces). And who can go past a course on the geology of mountains? For something a bit different, you can also check out Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought.
15. Make a Hiking Bucket List to Motivate You for Brighter Days Ahead
Which hikes have you never quite got around to? Collect route information, plan where you’ll camp, and make a gear list to get you psyched for the trips to come.
16. Open Your Damn Windows
Fresh air makes a difference. If you’re an urban rat like me who’s living next to a construction project, it’s best to open windows at night when ambient traffic pollution is lower. If you still find your apartment or home getting too stuffy, see if you can get your hands on some air-purifying houseplants to, quite literally, do the dirty work for you.
17. Write a Nature Poem
Try your hand at haiku – a Japanese form of poetry traditionally about nature themes. In school, you might’ve been taught that haiku is three lines, starting with five syllables, then seven, then five. This isn’t strictly true, as Japanese language breaks syllables down further than the English language.
Haiku poems also traditionally juxtapose two ideas – but rules are made to be broken, so go wild! Find inspiration from Australian haiku poets.
18. Make Your Home Smell Like The Great Outdoors
If you have soothing scents like lavender, jasmine, or even cypress, now’s the time to chuck a couple drops in your diffuser. If you don’t own a diffuser, just put some drops in a bowl in your shower and the steam will work its magic.
While aromatherapy is not a cure-all, it can certainly help create a positive mood and relaxed atmosphere. If you want to splash some cash, check out this ‘Walk in the Forest’ blend from Brisbane business Perfect Potion.
Feature photo by Tim Ashelford