Today I want to encourage Nature Walks. This is an especially good exercise to enjoy with children, but it’s good for just us grownups, too. Why? Well, besides the benefits of getting sunshine and getting moving, it’s a good encouragement to pay attention. To “stop and smell the roses,” as the saying goes.
If you’re goal-oriented and have a hard time looking around just to look, you can consider using a scavenger hunt and challenging yourself to locate everything on the list. That’s a good way to use your competitive nature to your advantage. There are about a bajillion available via Google search, and although they’re mostly geared toward children, there’s no reason an adult can’t use them, too. The same creatures and objects are found in nature no matter who’s looking!
Use All Of Your Senses.
Use all of your senses when you go walking. Many of us rely on our sense of sight to the neglect of our other senses. Breathe deeply, and see how many scents you notice. Foliage? Flowers? Woodsmoke? Dirt? Does the scent profile change with the seasons?
Notice what you feel. Be careful, of course, touching things. Wild animals, cacti, and poison ivy aren’t the best things to pet! And of course, respect the environment and neighbors’ property. But some things you can feel just being outside. Sunlight? A breeze? If you walk barefoot, you can feel different textures under your feet. And with appropriate caution, you can feel the varying textures of bark, flower petals, etc.
Listen. Depending on where you live you might hear manmade sounds like traffic or power tools. You’ll probably also hear natural sounds, too, though, like a breeze rustling leaves or birds chirping.
Taste is probably the sense least-suited to nature exploration. If you’re a knowledgeable forager, you can taste some of the flora. (The single key rule of wildcrafting: never taste a plant unless you’re 100% certain you know what it is and that it’s safe to eat.) Depending on the weather, you might be able to taste raindrops or snowflakes.
And, of course, look. Unless you’re visually impaired, sight is probably the sense you rely on most in your everyday life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re attentive to the details of the world around you. How many colors do you see? How many variations of a single color? What do you pass all the time that you haven’t ever noticed?
What if You’re Urban?
If you live in an urban area and aren’t near a green space, you can still do most of these things. You might not have the same opportunities to observe certain wildlife, etc., but you can still practice being fully present in the moment and appreciating your environment. You might even challenge yourself to look for bits of nature where you are — a dandelion growing in a sidewalk crack, a flowerpot on a stoop, or a pigeon in the gutter.