Clearly, the city life certainly has its benefits as the as city-dwellers are set to double in population by 2050. Job opportunities, close proximity to everything and the diversity of entertainment is what drew me to the New York City life. It’s for at least for one of these reasons that people move here. But jumping into the fast-paced city life is not without sacrifice. There are two things that someone thinking of of moving to a major city like New York should consider: lack of personal space and connection to nature.
While moving to the city on a low budget can make you feel like Harry Potter living in the cupboard, I am not necessarily talking about physical space. Tightly packed sidewalks, streets and noise pollution leave little place for inner peace and thought. Lastly, the concrete jungle that is the city is hardly abundant with nature and wildlife. Instead of being surrounded by trees, I now find myself surrounded by enormous buildings which feel suffocating at times. My morning sights of deer and rabbits have been replaced by the ocassional sighting of a rat in the subway. Studies show that the lack of connection with nature may be harming your mental health and your overall happiness. But if you have nowhere else to go, how can you find inner peace and feel connected to nature in this crowded concrete jungle? Here are 14 simple tricks that helped me feel happier and relaxed.
1. Get Some Air and Sunlight
Pull those shades open and crank a window (if you’re not in a busy street) and you’ll feel better already. Sunlight is a natural anti-depressant and it can also help you get better quality sleep. Something that’s hard to come-by when you are living in the city that never sleeps.
2. Go to a Park
Although not as abundant in the city, parks still do exist. By law cities are required to reserve some space for parks and recreation. That means you can go for a jog and for a few moments forget that you live in a city. Seems like common sense, but plenty of people never take the time to enjoy the parks.
3. Breathe in Happiness
Smell is one of the most underused senses. We spoil our other senses, yet we hardly realize that our sense of smell is important as well. Let’s face it, the city doesn’t smell that good. But at home you can forget all that and indulge yourself with great scents. An oil diffuser and some pure essential oil is all it takes to completely transform the atmosphere at home. Obviously, essential oils have benefits of their own but for me, it makes me forget that I am in the city and feel closer to nature.
Meditation is one of the simplest ways to regain inner peace in the city. Just 10 minutes a day can completely transform your life. I find it that it makes my stress melt away and in the city that is simply priceless. While meditating, I imagine that I am in complete harmony with nature’s energy and that I have nowhere to be and no problems to solve. I think that in the city it’s easy to forget that it’s okay to take a few moments for yourself and do absolutely nothing. No phones, no work, and no interactions.
5. Soothe Your Ears With Nature’s Songs
A great way to feel more in touch with nature is through the help of a cheap speaker. Whether it’s a computer, your phone or a bluetooth speaker, you can play a nice mix of nature’s sounds and transform your apartment’s atmosphere. The sounds don’t have to be real to help you relax and feel more connected to nature. I bought a simple $18 bluetooth speaker (here) and downloaded an app called “Naturespace”. It creates a totally different ambiance and blocks all the noise of the city. Another great opportunity to add some nature is in the shower. That’s right. Get a water proof speaker (like this one for $12) and play some nature sounds on YouTube. This totally made my shower experience more awesome. Sounds and music can be very powerful in transforming your life, especially in the ever-noise-polluted cities.
6. Adopt an Animal or Volunteer
If there’s one thing that I miss is looking out of my window and seeing deer and other animals. But in the city, there’s an obvious disconnect not only between nature and people, but also animals. A great way to overcome this is to adopt an animal in need or volunteer at the local shelter. A crowded city can sometimes feel the loneliest place in the world. Adopting or caring for an animal can remind you that there’s more than office buildings to our world and that we share our planet with nature.You can find your local pet shelters here.
7. Bring your Pet to Work
If you own a pet, check with your boss and see if you can bring it to work. Numerous studies show that animals in a workplace can boost morale and productivity. Google is one of many companies that allow their employees to bring their pets to work.
8. Grow Some Food
There used to be a time not long ago, where we would grow food ourselves or at the very least get it from our neighboring farmers. Right now, the gap between where the food grows and where it ends up is expanding vastly. Food is imported from other states and sometimes even countries. We no longer pick the food or get it from the farmer’s hands. It won’t be a surprise to me if in a couple of years a lot of kids won’t even know where vegetables or meat come from because they are so used to getting them from the supermarket. Understanding what it takes to produce what’s on your dinner plate can give anyone a deeper appreciation for what they have. It can also make you more environmentally conscious and care where and how your food is grown. But the best way to save the environment, control your own food supply and to save money is to grow your own food.
Food can be grown in the tiniest of spaces and doesn’t require as much effort as you may think. Your tiny studio apartment in the city has enough space for you to grow food. It doesn’t have to be all the veggies that you need, but anything will do. Not only will you have a fresh supply of food, but you will also have fresher air as the plants can remove pollutants. Having a tiny farm inside your house will also make you feel closer to mother nature. You can start out with something simple like this.
9. Buy Fresh Produce
If you don’t want to start your own tiny garden, fresh produce is your next best thing. We’ve grown used to buying food in plastic packages or even microwavable meals. It has completely shut us out from where the original ingredients actually come from and agriculture as a whole. Make a trip to a local farmer’s market and pick up some fresh food. You’ll support the local economy, your health and the environment. Bringing back fresh veggies always makes me feel happier. You can use local harvest to find the closest fresh produce in your neighborhood.
10. Plant a Garden in Your Balcony
Let’s face it, you barely use your balcony. Aside from showing the view to guests, it’s just an empty space outside your apartment. Why not plant a garden? You can have your own tiny jungle inside the concrete jungle that is the city. You’ll also help clean the city’s air and in turn have fresher air coming in into your apartment.
11. Surround Yourself with Nature’s Imagery
Imagery of nature can create a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere. Hang up your favorite photos of your travels with nature, put on a high definition nature video on your tv or get some art. It will immediately liven your place and also give something for your guests to look at.
12. Have Imagination
Do you live in the tiniest place in the city? Barely enough to stretch your legs, let alone to do any of the suggestions above? Well, a little imagination can go a long way. I’m not just talking about literally imagining through meditation but also creatively using your space. These tiny homes have shown us anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Be creative and make use of what you have. You can use the new found space for a world of possibilities such as the things we mentioned.
13. Cloud Watch
Hundreds of years ago, people started gazing into the sky and wondering what else is out there. That curiosity paved way to the invention of astrology, the airplane and more. But at some point, we stopped looking up and instead we focused on one another and the things directly in front of us. But in the last few years, it seems our field of vision has shrunk even further. Cellphones have us looking down, barely aware of what’s around or ahead, let alone above. Another way we find ourselves disconnecting from nature. Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, says looking up at the clouds can change your life. Take a few minutes a day and allow yourself to be a child again and make shapes out of clouds.
14. Happy Green Feet
Unfortunately, in the city, cement has replaced most of the grass. I miss walking around barefoot in the grass, which has an astonishing amount of benefits to our physical and mental health. This lack of physical contact with nature has also distanced us. While you cannot start growing a patch of lawn inside your apartment (unless it’s on the roof or balcony), you can get yourself some artificial grass. It looks absolutely stunning, it feels amazing and it makes me feel a whole lot better. A simple artificial grass rug by your computer will be a great start! Here’s one for just $24.
What are your best ways to deal with isolation from nature in the city or just to find inner peace?
Also Read: 10 Crazy Proven Ways to Be Happier
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