Tips on how to squeeze in time for nature

Skating at –41 C (Photo by Gayle Roodman/NCC staff)

Skating at –41 C (Photo by Gayle Roodman/NCC staff)

January 26, 2018 | by Gayle Roodman

We all lead busy lives, full of work and family commitments, errands and to-do lists that, over the course of a day, seem to magically grow longer.

It’s easy to become consumed by it all, but there’s nothing like a little nature to help you recalibrate. The benefits of spending time outdoors are far-reaching. It rejuvenates and refreshes, connects us to others and helps keep us healthy and happy.

My body (and my husband…gently) lets me know when it’s time for me to squeeze in some outside time. And since I’m restless by nature (pun not intended), it doesn’t take much to get me out the door, whatever the weather’s doing.

I’m grateful to live in a city with mountains, foothills and parks in my backyard. But I’ve also lived in major metropolises surrounded by concrete and five million of my closest friends. Regardless of where you live, nature can be found in even the most surprising places.

If you’re still not sold on getting outside — and sometimes the hardest part is just getting out the door — here are a bunch of suggestions that, I hope, will have you lacing up your shoes in no time flat.

1. Your time in nature doesn’t have to be a multi-day epic adventure; even just 20 minutes on a bench in the parkette at the end of your street can put a smile on your face. And you may even meet your neighbours and make new friends.

2. Layer up. Or down. Don’t let the weather — good or not so good — stop you from your nature fix. Hot or cold, think layers. Wicking fabrics like merino wool (my personal fave) keep you warm and dry, year-round. Add or remove layers, as necessary. Top off with a waterproof, breathable jacket (sounds like a recipe), and you’re ready to take on whatever the weather gods throw your way.

3. Bring a friend. Spending time outdoors with friends is a great way to connect, catch up or sing. My best friend and I sang the entire Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack — to alert bears to our presence — while on a remote hike in BC a few years ago. (We thought we sounded great; the bears may have thought otherwise.)

4. Get inspired: Visit Nature Destinations and discover what Nature Conservancy of Canada properties near you are just waiting to be explored.

5. Rally the kids. Even if you have to persuade them with promises of gummi bears along the trail, you’ll be blown away and inspired by their boundless curiosity and sense of wonderment.

6. Fancy yourself artistic? Pack your paints and pencils and capture nature by hand.

7. Volunteer your time in nature by helping clean up a beach.

8. Have a contest to see who can correctly name the most number of flowers, trees, birds, grasses. Winner gets to choose the next outing. Bonus points for the most creative wrong name.

9. Notice the sounds you hear (and don’t hear) once you get away from the day-to-day din of big and little city living. 

10. Introduce someone to nature. If you have elderly parents or friends, visit an urban garden, such as The Forks, or simply grab a lawn chair and sit with them by your backyard garden and notice which pollinators are visiting today.

11. Want some company? Join an outdoor Meetup group and enjoy nature with like-minded people.

12. What have you always wanted to learn how to do? Kayak? Snowshoe? Navigate? Stand-up paddleboard? Identify birds? Sign up for lessons through your local outdoors club or organization. The possibilities are endless.

13. Take a nature photography course through Continuing Education. Notice how different nature looks in black and white versus colour. Which do you prefer?

14. Visit the same nature spot in each season. Notice how different light, different angles, different seasons provide endless options for the “same old” view.

15. Take a winter wander and notice the patterns in the animal tracks. How many species can you identify? Can you tell the difference between a bird track and a moose track? (That’s about my level of “expertise.”)

16. Glide across a frozen pond. Who cares if you skate on your ankles? There’s nothing quite so exhilarating and refreshing as an outdoor ice skate in brisk weather (says the woman who went ice skating on New Year’s Eve when the thermometer had dipped to -41 C... at least we had the ice to ourselves). But remember to check the ice’s thickness at municipal-run skating rinks before you head out and use natural rinks at your own risk.

17. And most importantly: squeeze nature in. I typically spend a day in the mountains on weekends — hiking, skiing, cycling. But sometimes, there’s just not enough spare time. There’s a river walk just 10 minutes out our back door. Sure, I have to walk through the subdivision to get to it, but once I round the bend, past the endless construction, and walk down the steep embankment to the Bow River, I’m surrounded by nature. In winter, the sounds of the ice cracking on the water mixes with the sight of mist filling the air. In spring, I delight at watching ducks teach their ducklings to swim. I’ve been known to dip a foot or two into the frigid waters on a really hot summer day, and in fall I marvel at the myriad colours of the changing leaves. It might not be an all-day adventure, but I inevitably return home feeling revived, refreshed and smiling.

And now that I’m done writing this blog, I’m going to zip up my winter boots, throw on my parka and mitts and take a walk over to the urban park two blocks from my office to see what nature has in store for me.

Gayle Roodman

About the Author

Gayle Roodman is the manager, editorial services at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Read more about Gayle Roodman.

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