One of my favorite wellness tools is being outside, or near an open window. I often take my cattle dog, Gene, on a walk when I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Even if we only walk for 10 minutes, I find my brain is calmer after simply being outside. I’ve made a habit out of taking him on a walk soon after I return home from work, as it helps me transition out of the work day and leave the stress behind.

This is a wellness tool that many folks use, whether they do so intentionally or not. I always loved spending time outside as a child, and would often run up the hill by my childhood home and lay on a blanket staring at nature for hours. I never realized until I was older that I was practicing self-care when I did this. I was engaging my connection with the universe, and finding solace in simply being present. I never would’ve called this mindfulness when I was young, but that is exactly what it was.

One of the most difficult parts of my anxiety is how it makes me feel disconnected from my body and from the world. While I also use yoga, meditation, reading, and writing to help with that feeling of disconnect, I have found that being outdoors is my favorite tool for re-establishing my connection with the world around me, and myself.

As I have learned new tools for my recovery, I have also added mindfulness activities to being outside. While sometimes I just focus all my energy on what I can see, other times I use breathing exercises, using all 5 senses, seeing how many different types of plants I can find, watching birds and other animals in their natural state, and more. Occasionally I play calming music through my headphones and sit in the grass while my dog and I watch the skies. There are so many ways to engage the outdoors. If the weather is not ideal for being outside, I can sit by an open window.

The beauty of this tool is how simple it is. Although I have had plenty of days where even getting out of bed is difficult, I can almost always at least open the window. You can start by just sitting somewhere outdoors, and then eventually figure out how you like to move around outside and what makes you feel calm. I try not to think of my time outside as exercise or “going somewhere”, and instead focus on simply being where I am. You can give yourself small mindfulness exercises to help with focusing on the moment, such as: watching the clouds for one minute, looking for three different kinds of animals, waiting for two shooting stars on a dark night, looking for a point in the distance and moving towards it, finding a view that feels peaceful to you. Whatever feels right to you, these skies, this nature, this world are yours to connect with.

Kate Fitch

I've been with the Network since 2015, when I started as a volunteer. I've been on staff as the Communications Specialist since January 2017. I'm currently in college and pursuing a dual BA in Public Health and Public Administration. I'm most passionate about making sure that people with mental health conditions are fairly represented in the media, at policy tables, and in treatment system planning. In my spare time, I like to crochet, knit, and be the best cat mom ever.

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