Get outside!

Finding nature in a sea of concrete

An urban naturalist's tips on how to find life outside the wilderness

Originally Published: 

Mental health experts agree: spending time outdoors in nature can boost your mental health and help reduce anxiety-inducing behaviors like rumination.

All images/video by JoAnna Wendel

But if you don’t have easy access to large green spaces bursting with trees or ponds, how are you supposed to connect with nature?

Inverse got some tips from Kelly Brenner, author of Nature Obscura, which takes the reader on a nature-seeking journey around Seattle, Washington.

“If you can, find a place that’s somewhere you can go several times a day or week,” Brenner says -- like a walk around your neighborhood.

Places like cemeteries, vacant lots, city parks, or even that strip of grass between the sidewalk and road can host an entire universe of life.

If you walk outside and have no idea where to start, look up. Maybe you'll see a bird.

Pigeons aren’t the only city bird. Crows, red-tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons also live in cities.

Pick a tree. Pick a branch on that tree. There's probably moss or lichen growing on it, Brenner says.

If you look closely at the tree trunk, you might see critters crawling around, like this ladybug larva.

Find a bush with flowers and watch the pollinators come by. You might see bees, flies, butterflies, and more.

Sometimes, Brenner even crawls on the ground to look at the really tiny stuff, so don't be afraid to look silly.

Something might even land on you, like this Snakefly.

Smartphone apps like Merlin Bird ID, eBird, iNaturalist, and more can help you identify the birds, bugs, and plants around you.

“Sometimes you might think an area is barren, but the more you look the more you see,” Brenner says.

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