Jul 17th, 2023

Tips for Finding Zen in Nature

In the everyday hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to lose track of the last time you took a step back and relaxed. But it’s essential to do so because of the importance of a little thing called zen. “What’s that,” you ask?

Woman meditating PYR image by Oluremi Adebayo

Image by Oluremi Adebayo

Zen is a state of meditative calm in which one uses direct, intuitive insights as a way of thinking and acting. You often see people in a state of zen when they’re doing something that they love, calms them down, or is simply therapeutic.

Zen is important because once we get caught up in the work that we do, the fast-life that we lead, or what’s going on in the world, it brings us back to earth and grounds us. This can be helpful for those that feel trapped in a work-sleep routine.

So whenever we feel stressed, anxious, tired, or just…over it, practicing zen can be a helpful tool to reclaim our best selves-and nature is a great source! Here are some tips for finding zen in nature.

1. Indulge in your senses

Nature can provide a powerful sensory experience regardless of where you are; you just need to look for it.


Glide your hands across plants and trees. How does it feel? Is it soft on your fingers? Can you feel the warmth of the sun penetrating every one? Getting up close and personal with everything that nature has to offer is certainly rewarding; just make sure you don’t touch anything poisonous!


Listen to ambient noises. Let the calm waves of a gentle stream massage your brain. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and listen to trees colliding with each other. Birds chirping, bees buzzing, and on the rainy days, the sound of thunder as you comfortably hide in a giant blanket. Are you at peace?


Now open your eyes again and admire something beautiful, like one of the Incanto sculptures.

Sculpture: Seed of Self Sculptor: Kate Raudenbush Exhibition: Incanto Photographer: Tom Hennessy Location: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Incanto: Seed of Self by Kate Raudenbush

This one is called Seed of Self, and it happens to represent a reflection of your past and future in the present moment. What does it remind you of? Have you ever seen anything like it before? If not, make sure you take note of every little detail. What parts of it appeal to you, and what parts care less for? Do you want to see it again? Will you look for it?


Have you ever heard of “aromatherapy?” It entails using essential oils like lavender or tea tree to promote your physical and/or mental health; one of the best ways to achieve this is to literally smell the plant. It may seem far-fetched but think about when you light a good candle in a room. Doesn’t that just make the atmosphere feel more zen?

Of course, smelling roses or magnolias can help calm your mind, but the following plants/essential oils are more known for their effects:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Jasmine
  • Bergamot
  • Peppermint
  • Vanilla

So the next time you’re out on a walk in nature, try to “stop and smell the roses.”


Try foraging! Now it’s important that you do some research beforehand, because you really don’t want to eat something that you’re not supposed to, but if you already know what you’re looking for, then you’re golden. You can forage for blackberries, mulberries, clovers, dandelions, and many, many more!

There’s something really fulfilling about foraging; maybe it’s the fact that you found your own food, or you didn’t have to pay $5 for 6 ounces of blackberries. Either way, it’s a productive, soothing, and tasty activity that often gets forgotten.

2. Let your thoughts wander

When you want to be zen, it’s crucial that you provide space for your mind to go where it wants. If you’re worried about something, then it’s okay to think about it; but if you start thinking about something else, that’s okay too.

Remember that freedom is one of the foundations of zen, and constantly feeling the need to be in control of your thoughts may cause stress, and you don’t want that. To compromise, you can keep a notebook/journal with you, just in case you want to record whatever crosses your mind. That way, you’ll still be able to enjoy the feeling of being in nature.

3. Get physical

This is where the serenity of taking a walk in nature comes into play! Imagine being on the nearest coast, and you’re taking an early morning stroll as the sun rises; doesn’t that sound beautiful? We know how much our minds can affect our bodies (such as when we just wake up) but never lose sight of the fact that your body can affect your mind just as much.

Yoga in the Garden

Think about what happens during yoga; you go into various poses in an effort to clear your mind and find zen. Being intentional about your breathing, closing your eyes, and moving around can all contribute to focus, composure, and happiness.

Nature has endless possibilities for zen because it’s accessible, large, and full of…everything.  This makes finding peace in everyday life easier, and considering the state of the world, you can never have too much of that. I encourage you to go outside today and interact with nature, yourself, in order to, of course, find zen.

About Preston

Preston is a high school intern from a college readiness program called Partnership For the Future. He works in Youth & Family engagement, but is getting involved with marketing and exhibitions. He is thrilled to be back at the garden for the summer and wants to help out as much as he can!

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