Summer is all too brief in Michigan, and to survive the long winters we must make the most of it! Here are seven ways to engage with nature and most enrich your summer.
Everytime I walk past flowers, I take a second to smell them. I love gardening and getting my hands in the dirt. Getting in touch with nature—literally—makes us happier, brings us in touch with our environment, and heals our body.
My house is full of plants, from lavender trees to basil. It lifts my heart to see green and growing things indoors. Getting a house plant has been shown to decrease anxiety, improve concentration, and help with breathing.
From a simple three-second pause to literally smell the roses, to an hour of gardening, there are so many ways to benefit from the plants around us.
I love touching and hugging trees. Sounds hippie dippie I know, but hugging a tree literally releases oxytocin, the same chemical that makes us feel happy and connected when we hug humans. Okay so yes it's a little depressing if you need a hug and the only thing you have is a tree—but it still is soothing, grounding, and helpful.
Climbing trees is such a delight and totally a fantastic throwback to childhood. Bring a book with you or just climb up and sit and watch the world around you.
Have you hugged a tree yet? Even if it sounds absolutely silly and ridiculous, give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. And worse comes to worse—you hugged a tree. Really not that bad.
Get a blanket, lie down on your back, and look up at the clouds. Letting my mind wander encourages my imagination and creates a space for self-reflection. Healthy boredom is rare in our technological age and is vital for the health of our mind. Gazing up at the clouds encourages me to live in the moment and let my thoughts drift, just like the clouds overhead.
A lot of meditation practices bring the attention to the breath. Try bringing your attention to the clouds instead, and recapture the magic of childhood summers playing outside and gazing at the clouds.
I love walking barefoot, just like a hobbit: it literally grounds me to the earth. It encourages greater body awareness and awareness of my environment. Science shows walking barefoot in grass decreases anxiety and depression.
Take advantage of the warm weather and go barefoot on a walk, to the beach, or even just in your own backyard.
Anyone who lives in Michigan knows about winter's bouts of seasonal-affective disorder and how much of a difference a sunny day makes. Get out in the sun and soak up every bit of vitamin D you can—you'll need it come winter! I love laying out in a swimsuit with a book or even just meditating. The sun touching every bit of skin instantly makes me smile and feel happier.
If you have a task that's movable, bring it outside. Take your lunch outdoors. Even being out in the sun for five minutes can improve your happiness.
Moon and star gazing encourages all the beautiful things cloud-gazing does. The moon is a source of poetry and inspiration the world over—it is mystical, magical, and mysterious. Looking up at the moon on a clear or clouded night, stars bright or obscured, never fails to soberly remind me of how very small I am, and conversely how connected I am to everything and everyone around me. No matter where your family or friends are, they all see the same moon.
Curl up in a blanket on your porch with a cup of chamomile tea and spend time with the moon and the stars this summer.
It doesn't take blue mind theory—the scientific proofs that being near water brims with health benefits—to convince me that it is healing for my soul to be near water. One of my favorite places to meditate or pray is alongside the banks of the Huron River that flows near my house. Water soothes me, heals me, and makes me feel safe. It brings a calming, centering, powerful presence. In Michigan we're surrounded by lakes—we have literally over 62,000 options, and that's not even mentioning rivers and streams.
Go boating, floating, or swimming; find the nearest lake or river, bring a book, or just sit and soak it all in.
Summer is the most beautiful part of Michigan and its time is all too fleeting. Recharge your spirit and enjoy making the most of your time outdoors!