Have you thought about rewilding yourself? Recently, I went for a walk and wrote down my reflections in a journal entry. I found most of my thoughts ruminating on the way we’ve tamed nature, so to speak – and thus also become increasingly disconnected from it. I’m a big believer in connecting with nature on a deeper level. But I feel the more we remove the wild areas in favor of homes, department stores, and grocers, the more we lose sight of our own nature. We are not separate from nature, and I think a lot of people forget that. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep, to lose weight, to find happiness – there may be more to it than meets the eye. The benefits of becoming more in tune with the natural world, and your own natural cycles, can improve not only our planet, but also our own health. Here are the best tips for rewilding yourself.
What is the definition of rewild?
In environmental terms, rewilding means restoring nature by reintroducing native plants and animals and creating more biodiverse habitats. It’s essentially allowing natural processes to shape land and sea, restoring degraded landscapes, and repairing damaged ecosystems.
This is an incredibly important conservation method because humans have impacted the earth in countless ways through industrialization. Things like deforestation for agricultural farming and ripping up sea beds for sand and fish are just a few ways humans have damaged ecosystems.
Rewilding allows these areas to recover and flourish, essentially letting nature do it’s thing, but with a helping hand from us. Giving nature back to itself, so to speak. Then stepping back and letting it do what it does best.
What is human rewilding?
Human rewilding is focused more on humans returning to a more natural, wild state. A process of undoing domestication if you will.
Now, this doesn’t mean we have to all go move into huts and abandon all our material possessions. It simply means making time to connect deeper with nature in ways you didn’t think to do before.
Nowadays, humans don’t need to hunt or forage for our food. We’re very dependent on technology, and spend more time sitting indoors behind a screen than we do roaming through natural areas like forests, beaches and wetlands. Too much time sitting, staring at screens, + living indoors.
But here’s the thing. Nature is undoubtably tied to our health – it’s good for us. You can test that out for yourself the next time you go to a park – see how you feel while you’re there. Better, calmer? That’s not by accident – even just 15 minutes in nature can make us happier.
At the most basic level, humans need clean air, water and food to survive. But this is only the beginning – the natural world is a source of constant wonder for us when we get to explore and share in it. Be it watching a sunset, looking at the stars and moon, or standing in a field of wildflowers – there’s a spiritual connection to mama earth we all feel and share when we give ourselves permission to do so.
Rewilding can help improve human wellness as much as the environment. We must allow ourselves to become more immersed in natural cycles, in familiarizing ourselves with native species, in grounding ourselves.
So many people in today’s society suffer from plant blindness – they see a tree and don’t know it’s name, what it’s role in the ecosystem is, nor do they care. If they see it at all.
There’s also speciesism – when people believe they are superior to other species – which we see all the time in the factory farm industry. We must overcome these two problems if we are to rewild ourselves and fully appreciate the beauty this planet has to offer.
How can we rewild the world?
While I’m a big believer change starts within ourselves (individual action), I’m all for collective action too! Rewilding the world can be done through re-introducing native plant species that are lost, preserving wild areas we still have, planting trees and protecting marine life with no-fish zones. Fighting pollution and the exploitation of natural resources is also an important step.
Some ways you can help rewild the world:
- Support preserving local wild areas (are they trying to tear down a wetland by you? Protest it! Call your reps! Organize a march!).
- Create native seed bombs you can toss into desolate abandoned areas and watch them grow over time.
- Educate others about the importance of planting native plants in their yards and gardens.
- Support conservation practices both locally and globally. Sign petitions, share articles, etc.
- Call your local representatives and talk to them about their conservation efforts on a local scale.
- Reduce your consumption of fish while also advocating for no-fish zones to help fish populations recover.
- Find a nursery near you that sells native seeds and plants you can use in your own garden.
- Join tree-planting groups. Support deforestation solutions.
How can I rewild myself?
So glad you asked! Here are my top tips for rewilding yourself (and no, they don’t involve moving into the mountains and going off-grid, but hey, if that’s your calling…!).
Conscious food choices
We’ve become so disconnected from where our food comes from. Walk into any supermarket during the winter and you’ll see tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and a whole slew of food items that shouldn’t be there (because they’re not in season!).
Most of our food is grown several miles away using pesticides and herbicides that pollute and degrade soil and harm our waterways. It has to travel miles, sometimes even overseas, to get to us, resulting in a huge carbon footprint. Not to mention all the plastic packaging it comes in!
Our diets have also become incredibly un-diverse. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says there are between 20,000 and 50,000 edible plant species on Earth, yet we’re eating less than 200 of them. Who decides which plant species to grow and which to discard? And why aren’t we more concerned about it?
Here’s what you can do to rewild your food.
Grow your own food
Do you have a balcony, a backyard, or even a windowsill? Utilize it to start growing your own food! This will give you access to a wider variety of plant species, and fresher foods with smaller carbon footprints.
If you lack space, try regrowing your food scraps (green onions and lettuce are easy enough to regrow!), or having a potted container garden. You can grow herbs like basil, parsley, oregano and cilantro in containers rather easily. Better yet, start them from seed!
If you have the space, look into making a garden full of diverse varieties of edible plants. Look to your local nursery or find places online that sell organic plants and seeds.
Shop for local, in-season produce
Hit up your local farmers market to see what’s growing in your vicinity each season and plan your meals around it. Eating local and in-season produce helps reduce your carbon footprint and also tastes better because the food is so much fresher. And, it’s easier to shop at the farmers market plastic-free!
Forage for your food
Foraging for some of your food is a great way to connect to the land and understand plants better. Learn what grows in the wild where you live and do your research. I recommend getting your hands on some books or pamphlets – your local library may be able to help you with finding books on localized plants too.
As a beginner forager, it’s good to go on a foraging tour or two with an expert. I went on a foraging tour with Glam Gardener this fall and really loved it – highly recommend if you live in the NYC area!
Appreciating + protecting wildlife
Take a moment to think about the last time you witnessed local wildlife – what did that look like for you? Sometimes, it can be as simple as seeing a bird or a squirrel. Or maybe it was even a bug. How did the encounter make you feel?
It’s so important to have respect for non-human beings. After all, we share this earth with so many other incredible species – some which play a vital role in our own existence and wellbeing! Studying biodiversity on a local scale, and ways we can preserve it, can help us give back to all the wildlife in our area.
Plant a pollinator garden
I actually have a whole post about this on my blog: How to Create a Pollinator Garden. Pollinators are SO important for the wellbeing of our planet, our crops and ourselves! Plus, come on, who doesn’t love watching butterflies and cute little bees do their thing? Having a pollinator garden is a great way to watch nature in action from the comfort of your home. And, if you have a veggie patch, it’ll surely benefit your crops too!
Join a local wildlife Facebook group
I find this to be the simplest thing to do, but also very rewarding. My local Facebook group posts really inspiring pictures of birds and other animals found all over Staten Island. It’s great to browse through the photos and realize how many animals are actually living on this island with us as we speak!
I encourage you to do the same and find a local nature/wildlife Facebook group to join as well. You can also find really passionate people in these groups who are more than happy to connect and share their knowledge about native plant and animal species with you!
Research native species
Learning about the wildlife outside your front door is important to preserving it. I suggest brushing up on your local wildlife species – and finding out which animals are native and invasive to your area. This will give you some context as to what to lookout for when exploring your town, and the wilderness around it.
I live in Staten Island – my borough is one of the greenest of all NYC boroughs, yet we’ve lost so much of our wild spaces over the years. Still, it’s incredible whenever I hear about people spotting foxes or other wildlife that was said to have left due to habitat loss.
This is something I’ve always wanted to do – just need a pair of binoculars. I love birds! If you do as well, consider finding a local birding group you can meetup with. Maybe borrow some binoculars from a friend, or ask if anyone has a spare pair in the birding group you’re in to borrow.
Learning about both native and invasive bird species is very helpful. You can help native and migrating birds by planting indigenous shrubs, trees and flowers in your yard. Audubon has a great directory of a native plants database that will help show you which plants attract which birds.
Explore the woods
You never know what wildlife you’ll find inside the woods! I’ve seen chipmunks, several kinds of birds, and deer just in Staten Island alone. Not to mention all the beautiful greenery and the mushrooms you stumble across! Find out what each animal’s role in the forest ecosystem is.
Visit a local beach
See what wildlife you can find at the beach – do you find living clams and mussels in tide pools or buried under the sand? How about the sea birds? Is there anything swimming in the water like fish, rays, horseshoe crabs or jellyfish? Familiarize yourself with the patterns of these animals and see if you can observe their routines and diets. What’s their role in the ecosystem?
Create a nature journal
Get out into nature and document what you find. This can be so much fun and a really unique way to connect with the land on a more personal level. Try drawing plants you find and landscapes you come across, along with animals you see. Press leaves and flowers into the journal. Write down the seasons, the temperatures, the weather, the cloud formations, and what’s in bloom.
Getting outdoors and experiencing it through play, sports and exploration is imperative to human health. It’s also very low impact on the environment, especially if we’re not traveling far to do it but in our local wild spaces!
Many of us have 9-5s we have to work and by the time we get out, we’re usually drained, tired – and it might be dark out. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for the great outdoors. But it doesn’t change the fact we NEED to spend time outside as often as possible, be it five minutes in the morning, or ten minutes in the evening.
Dedicating weekend time to outdoor play and fun is also a great idea. Challenge your body is ways you never thought you could and reconnect with the wild in a way that’s invigorating to both body and mind.
Go for a hike
Hiking, or even just walking, is so rewarding and so good for you. A lot of people don’t get in enough steps throughout the day. They say for longevity, you should take anywhere from 6000 to 8000 steps a day. More isn’t necessarily better tho – if you’re taking more on a daily basis, it can actually be counterproductive. So finding a sweet spot is important!
I love taking a walk to the park or the beach. They’re both not too far from where I currently live. However, I love hiking in the woods even more and can’t wait to do more of that as the weather warms up. I also love fall hikes! Less bugs to contend with, that’s for sure.
Hiking is a great way to not only get in steps, but to also see nature in all its glory. Get fully immersed into it, you know? I went on a fall getaway to Upstate New York and went on some pretty life changing hikes that made my soul feel so full. I saw waterfalls in person for the first time and could not get over their raw beauty and power. It’s something everyone needs to tap into and see for themselves.
Try downloading the app AllTrails to find great hiking trails near you! You might be surprised at what pops up.
Take a wild swim
Personally, I’ve always wanted to do this. Pools are great but it’s nothing compared to swimming in wild waters, like a lake or the ocean. If you have access to a swimmable body of water, take full advantage! Not everyone does, after all. After all, how can a pool compared to a dip in a lake, river, stream, pond or waterfall? Talk about an unforgettable moment!
Swimming in the ocean is unforgettable as well – especially if you have coral reefs or kelp forests near you. I definitely want to visit a coral reef one day (huge life goal).
As always with any wild space you inhabit, try to leave it better than how you found it and be mindful of other non-human beings you may share the space with. Especially in bigger bodies of water!
Ride a bike
Even better if you’re riding it on a trail or out in the open where nature surrounds you. Of course, you’ll need the right kind of bike to do this, so be mindful of that. That being said, biking is great exercise and is an excellent way to get around without contributing to a high carbon footprint. And nothing beats feeling the wind on your face or the sun on your skin!
Bring nature indoors
While most of these activities are designed to be done outside, it’s important to realize you don’t have to be cut off from nature indoors either. There are ways to make your home more in-tune with nature’s rhythms as well!
Also, not everyone has access to wild spaces, especially those who live in cities. That, and for people with disabilities, wild spaces can be hard to get to or inaccessible. That’s why bringing nature indoors can be so incredibly vital and something everyone can enjoy!
Get some [sustainable] houseplants
But not just any houseplants – try to find ones that don’t come in peat soil. The unique biodiversity of peat bogs is being lost all for the sake of your houseplants. Rare butterflies, dragonflies, birds and plants are disappearing. Not to mention carbon in peat, when spread on a field or garden, quickly turns into carbon dioxide. That also means harvesting from peatlands releases CO2, which further drives climate change.
Here’s how to go peat-free and make your houseplants more sustainable:
- Switch your current houseplants to peat-free soil, which many nurseries and garden stores sell. I personally recommend Den potting soil because not only are they peat-free, they’re plastic-free too! Win-win in my book.
- Head to your local nurseries for your plant babies to reduce the carbon footprint of your plants, instead of ordering online. Better yet, ask if any of the plants were grown locally, or are native to your region.
- You can also ask friends for propagations of their houseplants! This is a much more localized, low-impact way of growing new plants. Or, propagate from the plants you already have on hand!
- Reuse or return empty plastic pots to local plant nurseries. Or see if your local community garden wants them for seed-starting.
Take up an analog hobby
Give your brain a rest and dive into a book about nature, watch a nature-themed documentary, or better yet take up an analog hobby. Part of rewilding yourself is about connecting with parts of ourselves that inherently made us sustainable. So anything that involves wildcrafting, candle making, bread making, sewing, gardening, or weaving baskets is both sustainable and part of our roots. Think back to ye’ olden days before there was technology – and how they got by. It’s important to learn and cultivate some of those habits into our own daily life too.
Use natural decor
I always find it so nice to setup some natural décor pieces that reflect the seasons. For spring, I’ve been thinking about making a foraged wreath out of forsythia and cherry blossoms I could hang on my wall. You could also forage some flowers to put inside a thrifted vase. It’s fun to get creative and let the season itself inspire you. I love decorating with pumpkins and gourds in the fall; pinecones and pine branches in the winter; flowers in the spring and summer. Best part is you can compost it all at the end of its life, so no waste!
Align with your natural cycles
Chronodisruption – they mess up our internal circadian rhythm (or preference for timing of sleep). We as mammals are supposed to be active during the day and resting at night. If you work late night shifts, this can really mess with our biological rhythms.
Some ways we can help this? Expose yourself to natural light more (could simply be opening a window and letting in natural sunlight); using essential oils (especially diffusing them in your home); understanding your chrono-type (being a night owl vs morning person) and syncing it with the natural circadian rhythm; and recognizing our physiology changes with the seasons (aka, we can actually handle glucose better in the summer because that’s when fruits are season).
I really encourage you to do research into your chrono-type, circadian rhythms, and the physiology changes that happen during each season shift. We also have biophilia – which is the need to spend time with other living things. Having a pet, plants and essential oils help with biophilia immensely because you’re interacting with living beings and their essences.
How are you rewilding yourself? Share some of your tips below!
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