Six ways you can Practice Self-love Through Nature this Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is approaching! This holiday does not just celebrate romance between individuals. It is also about expressing love to ourselves! Valentine’s Day also happens to exist amidst an intense month of seasonal depression and burnout for many folks. Being kind to yourself is crucial to show up for your loved ones for Valentine’s Day, whoever they may be. Sometimes self-love can even be found right in your backyard! It may be chilly in many places during this time of year, but bundle up and explore some of the ways to be extra kind to yourself through appreciating the outdoors! You may not even have to head outside to take self-care and appreciate nature this Valentine’s Day. This blog details six ways you can practice self-care this Valentine’s Day through nature.
1. Prepare and eat a well-balanced meal sourced from fresh, local produce.
Here in the Truckee Meadows, among several other parts of the country, we are lucky to have so many local food producers! Many of them share their locally grown delicacies with us at farmer’s markets. Not only does it give you a chance to spend time outdoors by heading to your local farmer’s market, but you can continue to appreciate and support these locally grown specialties in your kitchen by using fresh produce in your meals. Head to a local farmer’s market and ask a merchant their favorite way to prepare the produce they sell! Consider expressing love and appreciation for loved-ones in the spirit of Valentine’s Day by preparing a meal for them with your new fresh produce! Reno’s largest and only year-round farmer’s market is the Riverside Farmers Market off of Riverside Drive and it is every Saturday from 9am to noon!
2. Go birding!
Believe it or not, birding has very positive impacts on one’s well being. Birding helps humans put a pause on feelings of sadness or distress so that we can celebrate the simplicity of wildlife. Birding shifts our attention and awareness, causing us to live in the moment and become fully present. Watching birds is an act of mindfulness as we gain an appreciation for another being in nature, one that has incredible capabilities to freely soar through the sky and sing all types of songs. You don’t even have to be an expert on the birds of your region to appreciate them. This is also something you can do right in your backyard— birds are almost everywhere you look all year round. You may not even have to go outside to appreciate the birds in your community. Just look out your window and you may see some friends with wings! You can even make this an activity with your loved ones. Invite a friend or family member to come explore the awe-filled world of birds with you!
3. Watch the sunrise or sunset.
Get up early to watch the sunrise! The sunrise is a magical part of each day as it is an awakening of the earth and its many living things. As the sun rises each day, plants, birds, trees, and wildlife wake up. It is also comforting to observe the sunrise because it always represents a new beginning to every day. It can be an exciting and refreshing way to begin your morning when the sun rises and it can help establish a routine. Rising with the sun is also a very healthy way to set your own personal clock. If you have romance in your soul this Valentine’s Day, observing the sunrise can bring joy into life’s mundane tendencies. In the wintertime, it doesn’t rise nearly as early as it does in the summer, so you may even get to sleep in a little bit. Not a morning person? Not a problem! Reserve some time in your day to watch the sunset. It can be just as refreshing to watch the day break, knowing that tomorrow will be a new day.
4. Go on a winter hike or nature walk.
If there is a lot of snow on the ground like there is in the Truckee Meadows this winter season, go on a snowshoe hike! Moving your body while being outdoors is a joyful expression of being alive! As you move your body on a winter promenade, you are experiencing the simplicity and awe of nature. If it is really cold outside, practice titration, a crucial nervous system concept of challenging yourself, that can be life-changing for many folks, especially in the winter months. Originally coined by chemists, titration means slowly adding challenge in manageable amounts. Doing too much too quickly can overwhelm our nervous systems, which is where titration comes in. In the winter, experiencing cold temperatures is a challenge in and of itself. Our bodies typically interpret cold as a daunting threat, which is not a wrong feeling because the cold is capable of being very dangerous or unhealthy! By gradually spending more time moving your body outdoors when it's cold, you will build comfort and confidence in your body’s movement and the layers you are wearing. After being outdoors in the cold for a prolonged period, treat yourself to a warm drink afterwards!
5. Keep a gratitude journal specifically for nature.
A gratitude journal is a super easy form of self-care. Gratitude journaling makes us appreciate positive aspects of life, specifically the outdoors, that we otherwise would take for granted. In a world where our natural open spaces are constantly changing due to climate change, a nature gratitude journal becomes especially important so that we can appreciate nature in wintertime while we still have a full winter season, for instance. Channeling your gratitude journal towards nature may bring even more tranquility to your life than a regular gratitude journal because time spent appreciating the outdoors has positive implications for both mental/emotional well-being and environmental stewardship. You can write while being outside in the thick of the winter, or inside the comfort of your home when the weather says it's time to seek shelter. Wherever it may be, give yourself the time of day to observe the beautiful natural processes we often don’t notice unless we pay them close attention. Here are a few prompts to inspire you in your nature journaling:
In detail, describe your favorite place in nature.
When and where do you feel safe in the outdoors?
What is a naturally occurring episode that you look forward to each year/season?
What is your favorite flower and why is it your favorite?
Mountains or beaches? Which do you prefer and why do you prefer it?
Recall and describe your favorite outdoor experience with someone important to you.
Go outside, observe your surroundings, and write 5 things you are grateful for.
The outdoors cheers me up when I’m feeling down because…
My favorite time to be outdoors is…
6. Hug a tree!
Hugging a tree has been scientifically proven to increase your hormone oxytocin levels! This hormone is our emotional bonding and calm hormone. When hugging anything, specifically something in nature due to the benefits of being outdoors, the serotonin and dopamine levels in our bodies increase our moods. Take advantage of your access to natural open spaces and hug a tree! Tree-hugging can also make you feel stabilized and grounded. To hug a tree and reap the most benefits from it, relax your arms and ensure that your elbows are below your wrists with the palms of your hands facing your body. Your hands don’t have to touch one another. Try to leave a few inches or so in between your hands and extend your fingers gently.
About the Author:
Caroline earned a Bachelor's degree from the American University School of International Service in Washington, DC where she studied Environmental Sustainability and Global Health with minors in French and Art History. She grew up recreating outdoors in the northeast, but is passionate about preserving access to the outdoors everywhere. She relocated to the Reno-Tahoe area after leaving DC in May 2022 where she worked on preserving access to the near 200-mile Tahoe Rim Trail system for 6 months. In her free time, she enjoys art, running, and the sunshine!