Why it’s helpful: Whether it’s the sounds of ocean waves crashing, a lake gently lapping on the shore, or a trickling mountain stream, water can provide comfort to us, says Lomas. “The importance of water sounds may relate to the critical role of water for survival, as well as the capacity of continuous water sounds to mask noise,” scientists wrote in the aforementioned Proceedings of the National Academy of Science meta-analysis. Plus, by having a water feature you can see as well as hear, you may be able to tap into additional calming benefits, since research suggests that the simple act of looking at water can decrease blood pressure and heart rate while promoting relaxation.
6. Collect a basket of nature items.
Designate a basket or container to hold any nature items you find when you are able to go outside—and challenge yourself to be on the lookout for things that speak to you. These can be shells, pinecones, rocks, dried flowers, a cool piece of bark—anything, really. When you’re feeling stressed, visit this “treasure chest” of nature items and spend a few minutes exploring the objects with your various senses, noting how they smell, feel, look, and sound, says Kuang.
Rocks in particular can be super grounding, says Siegfried. That’s why she recommends mindful interaction with them, similar to with the houseplants above. Close your eyes and use your hands to explore the different textures and temperatures of the rock, says Siegfried. Place the rock against your heart or rib cage and note what it feels like to breathe alongside the rock. This exercise may sound hokey, but “people just have the most amazing experiences,” says Siegfried. After you’ve connected with the rock for several days, consider returning it to where you found it or to a new place as a practice in reciprocity, says Siegfried.
Why it’s helpful: Spending a few minutes mindfully exploring various natural objects can help lower stress levels and provide a sense of comfort, says Kuang. This activity can also remind you of positive memories of when you were outside in nature, which can be soothing when you’re cooped up indoors. Plus, taking the time to intentionally interact with natural objects can bring you into the present moment and usher in a sense of relaxation.
7. Light candles or use an essential oil diffuser.
We often experience nature visually, but tapping into the olfactory aspect can be yet another way to connect to the natural world. Consider lighting a nature-scented candle or using an essential oil diffuser to infuse your home with the smells of the outdoors, whether that be the fragrance of a rose, lavender, or pinewood forest.
Why it’s helpful: Smells associated with nature can boost well-being (including measures of enjoyment and happiness), according to a compilation of research cited in a 2022 study published in the journal Ambio.
8. Get intentional about texture.
The next time you shop for a new couch pillow or throw, opt for a natural fabric—think: wool, sheepskin, velvet, cotton, or linen, says Lomas. All of these materials have different textures that can provide a unique experience to explore nature via touch. This can look like: