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Slow Living: How to Enjoy Nature in the Winter

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

a woman walking through the woods in winter

"I haven't been on a walk in three weeks!" I thought to myself one ugly November day. When I moved back to the USA mainland, that first Illinois winter back was a bear and a half. I struggled with not being able to go outside due to the bitter cold!!!!!! If I did go outside it wouldn't be but a few minutes before I would need to go warm up by a fire with hot cocoa. I was used to the warm sunshine, and a beautiful brown sexy tan ALL year (mostly, except when there was a hurricane. Obviously, it rained a lot and was quite cloudy.) I was used to clocking out for my lunch break and jumping in the ocean, or riding my bike. I hadn’t experienced a legit winter for quite some time. I hated feeling stuck in my apartment when my instinct was to explore. Then Covid-19 happened and I was spending even more time in my apartment, so I had to come up with some ideas to help me feel connected to nature. I know that even when the weather is good you probably feel stuck in an endless cycle of computers, fluorescent lights, microwave dinner, repeat! Here is how I have how to enjoy nature in the winter, even when it seems impossible.

This article is written based on my experiences and it's for fun purposes. Please do your research before doing anything in this article.

Kinetic ……….Sand (or regular sand).

Remember being a little kid at the end of the school year, eagerly anticipating the start of summer! Your teacher would ask the class what you all were looking forward to most during summer break, and undoubtedly most of your class answered, "THE BEACH!" (No school, was probably the second highest response."

woman with her feet in the sand

We all seem to feel this primal deep connection to the beach. It helps restore our bodies and souls in ways that $200 spa treatments never could. The cool thing is that science backs up that walking on sand can be very beneficial to you. Nothing beats my feet being “exfoliated” by the sand and having the waves slowly rush over my toes. When I moved into my apartment in Chicago I missed the beach terribly, I was eager to find a way to bring that grounding feeling of the beach home with me. I discovered kinetic sand when a student of mine needed kinetic sand for his sensory play. Turns out, it helped me stay regulated in my class too during the crazy moments. I picked some up from the store for myself to use at home.

There is something so calming about squeezing a clump of kinetic sand tight, but you can use regular sand too. I like to stick my feet on a bin during the cold winter months, and it's like I'm right there by the waves. When it's colder, we don't get a lot of chances to do grounding with our bare feet. I know that it helps me feel connected to the earth when I can’t get outside.

Clay face mask

What comes to mind when you hear "Clay Mask"? Do you think about when you and your little sister used to through mud at each other after school? Or perhaps you hear the sound of feisty blue jays, and you imagine yourself walking along the banks of the river, pausing to put the clay on your face to connect with the earth. Maybe you imagine you are in a delightful Spa. When a friend introduced me to clay face masks, I'll admit I was hesitant to try them. I was used to using the $2.00 coconut-smelling ones that we find at Target. But then she scooped up the powder and began mixing it with water in a cute sea turtle-designed bowel. Now I love it! When I use a clay mask I am instantly connecting with the natural elements of earth from my apartment couch. It makes me feel like a true wild woman!

Many of the clay masks do not have the added artificial fragrances many cosmetics have. Adding a clay mask to your beauty routine once a week will bring you in contact with your wild self. You deserve it, especially when stuck in snowy traffic after a day of filling out reports at the office.

Nature Sounds

a peaceful nature waterfall

Even though this is a picture, you probably hear the water cascading down the rocks. feel relaxed already. I'll bet you probably want to be here right now, instead of staring at the gray walls in your office. It seems so peaceful, wherever this waterfall is. Many relaxation apps let you choose from a variety of natural sounds. They not only help me handle stress, but they also help me stay connected to the outdoors when it's freezing out. There are so many sounds that were put in nature for our ears to enjoy. A river, wind, birds, frogs, and rain, are all healthy sounds for human ears. I like to listen to thunderstorms, ocean waves, and campfire and cricket sounds on my Rain app. When the sky is gray and the temperatures are single digits I can easily transport myself to a lake in the woods for a few moments. It helps to keep my passion for nature and exploration alive as the winter wind roars through the sleeping prairie lands. What are some sounds from your favorite spot in nature?

Essential oils and Candles

Have you ever thought of using essential oils to connect you with nature? You probably use these a lot already. And honestly, you can go on Pinterest and see thousands of ideas on how you can use them in your everyday life. It's amazing!

A brush, two bottles of essential oils, and a bar of soap

I use essential oils for everything from soaps to cleaning supplies. They are good stress relief because they directly affect our olfactory system. That is why the oils have such a calming effect on people.

But you can use essential oils to feel closer to the outdoors. It's a wonderful way of how to enjoy nature in the winter. they help bring the wonderful smells of nature to my apartment. The sandalwood, pine forest, cinnamon, and rosemary are my go-to's when I need to go on a hike but I can't. Some of my other favorites are lavender, peppermint, frankincense regular rose, an amazing blend of lemon eucalyptus fir juniper, and rosemary for my diffuser. Lavender especially helps offset the unpleasant smells of the suburbs such as but not limited to car exhaust, trash, and sometimes cigarettes. You can also use candles for amazing nature scenes. My mom got me this wonderful Hawaiian-inspired one. We do have to be careful with candles though because many are made with chemicals but, they are also ones that are made with essential oils. What are some of your favorite ways to use essential oils or candles, and what scents help you feel close to nature?

Start your indoor garden! Cook and make tea!

Crazy plant parents are on the rise! I even received a mug that says Crazy Plant Lady on it. One of the best ways to feel like a wild nature person is to bring live plants

a persons hands holding a tomato plant

Even though garden plants aren't nature so to speak, there are so many health benefits that you can get from gardening. Working with plants helps us connect with something real, in a world that is moving at high speed toward the virtual world. The health benefits of having plants in your home are astounding. Winter, especially winter here in Illinois, is long and cold, and the sun is down by 4:00 in December. Gardening has been known to help boost happiness and increase self-esteem. Which I find helpful during the dark cold winter nights. Since I live in an apartment, I use an Aero garden too. All I have to do is keep it filled with water, prune the plants, and feed them. They are less messy than pots( although I have a lot of plants in pots too) and they come with a light so I don't have to worry about the lack of sun in the winter(thinking about trying tomatoes. I grow greens and herbs right now in the winter in my small garden. I like to cook with the different herbs I grow and make warm tea. My favorite thing to make is homemade pizza crust with rosemary and oregano. My favorite tea is peppermint. There are so many plants that give wonderful benefits to our bodies. They are naturally healthy foods that our bodies recognize! They help rather than hurt. You can also buy herbs like basil and rosemary to cook with. Channel your inner fairy, and engage all your senses by seeing what things from your little garden you can add to dinner. Have fun interacting with plants during the winter! Each of us has a part of our hearts that is craving to be connected to something real. I have spent way too much of my day printing stuff out, figuring stuff out over Zoom, cutting things out for my class, driving here and there, etc. Having a small garden will encourage you to slow down, breathe, and connect to your physical world.


Pets are other living creatures that we love as part of the family. Even though most of us have pets that are not wild animals(and shouldn’t), they remind us that we share the world with many other creatures and that we have a responsibility to the animals of this world both wild and domestic.

Listen to the Birds

a bird, a cardinal in the snow

I feel blessed to live near a place that is close to several nature preserves. Birds always enjoy stopping by and munching on the many bird feeders my neighbors and I have up. When I don't have anywhere to rush off to, I surprisingly, love the cold winter mornings. The gold and red sunrise colors peak out and cast a picture-perfect look on the snow. If the temperature is too cold I'll take my coffee or tea and just look out my balcony. Sometimes the air is so cold I can see the steam rolling off my mug and up to the sky. I close my eyes and for a few moments, I listen in to the birds who have remained in the area. Then I watch them fly from branch to branch. I'm grateful for the nature that I can observe from my home. It helps me feel like I'm still a part of their world.

Walk with the Trees and Rivers

I get out on the tails when the cold isn’t so terrible you feel like it's biting your face out. When the temperatures are a little warmer I take my doggie out for a little bit. This winter I have made it my goal to instead of getting through it enjoy it. Even the hard days.

a couple walking in winter

My husband, my doggie, and I have been rediscovering the magic of winter. We have been bundling up and seeing what we can discover. We take pictures of the snow-covered hills, trees, and frozen lakes. We meditate on the stillness and quietness of the season. We find forest preserves we have never been to. We go into the nature center and learn about the animals in our area during winter. We laugh at the squirrels looking for the precious treasure they buried months before. What better way to enjoy nature than to bundle up and get out there?

I know that you long for more freedom and flexibility. You probably feel like you have been stuck in your apartment for years or your classroom or office. Every day you feel like you are slowly being erased from the wild and being uploaded to the iCloud. Whether it's grounding in sand, listening to nature sounds, gardening, or anything like that those small changes and your daily routine will make a world of difference. Slowly but surely you will feel like your wild self again and close to nature. What are some of your favorite ways to stay connected?

Thank you for reading this article. Let me know what you think!

Woman in a hammock with her dog

tHi! I am Paulie D. from Notes from My Hammock. I write about living authentically, mindfulness, wellness, and self-expression.

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