With fall quickly approaching and the promise of cooler weather, we can all get excited about scarf and chic jacket season. Turning off our phones and screens is essential to enjoying our surroundings, unencumbered by distractions. Instead of scrolling through Instagram and texting, take some time to put away your smartphone and go for a stroll.

  • Go for a walk Thoreau style. “The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours…but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.” –Henry David Thoreau 

Even if you can only get outdoors for a few minutes on your lunch break (although a lot of us are working differently since Covid: for some it’s better and more freeing and, for others, it consists of sitting in front of your laptop all day), go out and get some fresh air. If you’re chained to a desk all day looking at a screen for work, take time out to look in nature and relax your eyes. Enough with squinting! 

Of course, Thoreau’s style of walking (from his aptly titular essay) is a singular activity by a man who lives reclusively in the woods. For Thoreau, nature was his religion, so to speak. Walking was, to him, almost a sacred act of self-discovery and realization.

  • Observe nature in all its forms and make notes of the changing seasons. Pick, preserve and press flowers and plants in a notebook or “herbarium.” Fall is the time for magnificent foliage, so become a leaf peeper! There’s nothing more beautiful than watching the leaves turn to incredible hues of gold, crimson, and russet before falling to the ground. Collect your favorite leaves (this is especially enjoyable if you have small children: take your kids for a walk and explain to them about the changing seasons, etc.). 
  • Read! Look through your home library or go to your local library and get lost in the stacks. Go to a small rare and used bookstore, and if you’re going to buy something, you’ll feel good knowing you’re shopping small and locally. 
  • Keep a notebook handy. Make To-Do lists on actual paper rather than your Notes App (although be warned, paper is lost a lot more easily than your iPhone!). Write little poems or haikus, doodle, sketch, and, if you’re really into making art, get some watercolor paper and paints. 
  • Look through old photos. Maybe you (or your mother or grandmother) kept a scrapbook from when you were younger. Look in the back of your closet; you’ll quickly realize that the objects you find probably don’t have a lot of monetary value but are flooded with sentiment and memories. This is also a great excuse for a bit of de-cluttering. Use this unearthing of memories as inspiration to make a new scrapbook or family album!
  • Become a thrifter. Not only is it great fun to browse antique and vintage thrift shops, but it’s always a good practice not to succumb to fast fashion. 
  • Use a Polaroid. Even though this sort of camera may seem outmoded, there’s a lot to be enjoyed, even if it’s just for novelty’s sake. It’s a different sort of instant gratification; this way, your photos aren’t on the phone but are keepsakes.
  • Go for a drive. There’s nothing like an open road and scenic drive to help you relax. In every old movie, there’s a disgruntled boyfriend or husband who has to “take a drive” to think.
  • Go to a museum or art opening and make conversation. A lot of people would rather text than actually talk and connect face to face. Let’s get rid of that impulse, go out to a club, mingle, and meet new people. This is especially important for Millennials and Zoomers!
  • Exercise!  Whether you’re into cardio at the gym with music blaring through your earbuds or getting quiet at home on your mat, exercise is an integral part of most people’s day. Michelle Obama gets up as early as 4:30 AM to work out because she simply isn’t herself without it, and even the most devoted to the phone put it away and don’t scroll while at the gym.
  • If you’re not into a lot of exercise but want to get more active, yoga is about having an experience with your body, is very Zen and also great for aches and pains. It’s about breathing, getting centered, and relaxing. Give it a try for fifteen minutes a day and see what happens.

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