When people ask me what my least favorite part of New York City is, I respond, “The lack of nature” without a second thought. I try to get outdoors as much as possible, but when you make your home in the concrete jungle, it’s easier said than done. I spent the first weekend of 2016 in bed watching The Lego Movie. Desperate winter times call for desperate winter measures!
So naturally (pun intended), reconnecting with the earth had to be part of my #Mindful30 challenge. I’m lucky enough to live about halfway between Washington Square Park and the Hudson River Park — two of New York City’s most beloved oases. So I thought, Why not explore both in the same day? Nature, here I come!
I woke up at 5:30 to hit the gym and, instead of taking the subway, decided to ride a CitiBike down the West Side Highway, along the Hudson River Park. I drank my warm lemon-turmeric water, threw on two pairs of pants, a down jacket, and hopped on a bike. Riding my bike at pre-dawn, I was as bitter as the icy air. But as I traveled downtown, with the Freedom Tower lit up against the dark sky and the undisturbed Hudson River rolling gently to my right, I relaxed. The cool air felt invigorating in my lungs.
After my sweat session, I decided to ride home as extra credit — after biking to the gym, traveling underground just didn’t seem very appealing. Being outside wasn't just refreshing because of the fresh air. I was able to appreciate what I love most about this city: the people.
That evening after work, I treated myself to a raw, vegan cookie from my favorite organic grocery store and headed to Washington Square Park. (Note: This treat may have been a bribe to get myself back out into the cold weather.)
I found a cozy bench where my favorite street artist, the legendary Crazy Piano Man, was playing Mozart and mindfully indulged in my dessert while taking in the sights. Lovers whispered in each other’s ears, children rolled by on scooters, and brave squirrels ran through the chilly grass. Being in the presence of live music, other people, and nature was so much more satisfying than sitting alone in my apartment! I felt alive and appreciative of the opportunity to be outdoors in a place so many people dream of visiting.
Being mindful of nature that day made me fall back in love with the city. It showed me that, even in the dead of winter, there was life all around me. And I was part of it.
Want to join me and mindfully step into nature? Visit aetnamindfulness.com to participate and learn more.
This post was sponsored by Aetna, who believes health is about the body and the mind. Stress can affect emotional and physical health, and reducing stress can boost well-being. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blogger's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Aetna. To learn more about stress reduction, visit aetnamindfulness.com.
Photo by Chloe Bulpin, mbg Creative