If you are looking to become enlightened by nature’s restorative properties, it is unfortunately not enough to simply “be” outside in nature. One must act with specific intentions and engage with nature in order to grow as an individual and increase perceptual capacity. I am certainly not an expert on how to “get the most out of nature” (so please comment below if you have better ideas!) but I have a few ideas that have worked well for me, so give them a try and see if any of these small changes can strengthen your experience with nature!
-Focus on your breath. If you are sitting by an ocean, focus on taking slow, deep breaths as if you are meditating on your surroundings. Know that you are breathing in fresh ocean air and feel it fill your lungs and spread throughout your body. This should have a calming effect that can decrease anxiety or simply help you focus on the rhythm of the waves and the pleasantness of the open air.
-Try to identify the plants, trees or flowers you see. Unless you are a biologist, botanist, or other trained specialist, I think you will find this engagement task challenging yet humbling. The vast variation of flora and fauna in the world is impressive, and to become more aware of the diversity that surrounds us can help us direct our attention to the natural world more consistently which will help foster an admiration and appreciation for nature. If you learn the names or other information about plants you encounter in nature, please share this information with your friends, family or neighbor! Spread your knowledge about the natural world; simply talking about nature can improve the quality of your experience with nature in the future.
-Talk to yourself about what you see – as if you’re having a monologue with yourself, describing the natural world for someone who may not be able to see at all. Describe the shape, texture, color of the plants you see. Are they neatly planted or wildly growing across an area? Look up and admire the clouds in the sky – what are the shapes and how do the clouds make you feel? Is anything moving – a bird in the air, the waves of the ocean, a leaf falling from a tree? The more in tune you are with describing your surroundings can increase your connection with nature and thus gives you a more fulfilling experience with nature.