“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” –Henry David Thoreau
Getting back to nature and simplicity is, for some, the key to happiness. Transcend the mundane. Henry David Thoreau thought the key to a contented life was to live in nature, simply, and that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Try turning off your screen and observing the world around you.
The pleasures that can be found in self-reliance and in completing small, everyday tasks are endless. Some even say they’ve found spiritual enlightenment in doing so. Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity upon watching an apple fall from a tree. Some say that a way of living simply, off the grid, away from the Internet is outmoded and just not practical. Well, one can live in a modern world and enjoy sensory activities that quiet the mind.
Here are some activities to try by yourself or with your family. Sometimes solitude is best but sharing special moments with loved ones is wonderful, too.
- Go for a walk or hike. Slow down for a while and don’t take any pictures with your smartphone. If you enjoy sketching, take a notebook and draw the landscape or simply write down whatever comes to mind that seems noteworthy. Pick up a stone or leaf and keep it as a memento.
- Go to the woods. Look up through the canopy of the trees at the sky. If you get really quiet and listen to your surroundings, you’ll hear all sorts of things: crickets chirping, birds singing and even a deer rustling the leaves.
- Help someone. Sometimes kindness is forgotten in such a fast-paced world. Be the person who carries heavy bags for a senior, opens the door for someone, and helps those in need. A small gesture can change everything.
- Engage with your natural surroundings. Lie in the grass, pick flowers, cup your hands and collect water from a stream or river. Observe nature. Go barefoot. Plant flowers and sow seeds.
- There’s nothing more basic and enjoyable than sharing food. Have a meal together—start at the beginning by buying fresh ingredients; go to the farmer’s market and put the weight of the basket on your hip or head (do not use plastic bags). Cook a healthy meal with your loved ones, break bread together, and then help wash the dishes and clean the kitchen. No dishwasher allowed!
- Visit an orchard; pick the apples off the tree and eat them. Picking fruits and berries and eating them straight from the vine is a wonderful feeling. Gather nuts, crack them and then enjoy the delicious meaty morsel inside.
- Plant a garden patch. Dig in the dirt without gardening gloves and get soil underneath your fingernails. You’ll feel a sense of satisfaction as you tend your plants and watch them grow.
- Read a book. No E-readers! Reading is a quiet, solitary activity but is completely absorbing and keeps the mind sharp.
- Use watercolors to create a painting. Paul Cezanne said that in painting lies salvation. You’d be surprised at how easy and sort of error-proof watercolor paints actually are.
- Write a poem. Even if you don’t feel particularly inspired, try writing down what you feel, see, hear, smell, etc. People who journal and write every day tend to be happier and more focused.
- Sew on a button. Don’t rely on a tailor to do your mending; take the time for a simple yet meditative activity.