Bonnie Wright's Favorite Ways To Get Outside & Re-Center
My intention for my new book, Go Gently, is to explore the balance between tangible, forceful action to help fight climate devastation and gentle care for the self and the planet. The hard and the soft. The love and the rage. The rest and the resistance. The crisis of the climate is heartbreaking as we are mourning the erosion of our home; it's also enraging because we have done this to ourselves. But when we allow time to fully be present to the experience of life on Earth, I truly believe we are able to see more clearly the beauty and the bounty that we still have and notice how it can be protected. It is in these moments of active rest that I feel hopeful as I witness my interconnectedness to living things and know what a collective force we are.
There are a few activities I enjoy that bring me closer to myself and my relatives in nature. These range from moving my body to avoid stagnation and cultivate energy, doing breathing practices to alleviate the anxiousness of the day to day, and setting a goal of picking up five pieces of trash on my walk home. As someone who can fall into the fight-or-flight mode of modern-day life, I find these exercises provide me with an opportunity to catch my breath.
The relationship between mind and body can at times mirror humanity's relationship to the planet, one that is deeply biologically tied but can easily lose alignment. As we realize that our planet is not a limitless resource, it is important to see that neither are we. Energy, ideas, and action cannot be extracted 24/7. There must also be time to engage in nourishing activities.
When we hear phrases like "connecting to nature," we often think of hiking in the mountains or swimming in the ocean. But the truth is we are as much a part of nature as the mountain we wish to climb or the ocean we wish to swim in. Access to green spaces and beaches depends on many variables, but before going outside, journeying to nature starts with yourself. That is our most intimate connection. Fostering this intimate relationship with the self requires an intention to slow down and to observe and witness our own mind and body. That way we can nurture our own ecosystem so it can thrive in the outside world.
I love that our relationships with nature are so uniquely different and intimate. I encourage you to take these practices and make them your own:
I find that different types of stretching and breathing exercises can produce different types of feelings. I love to do a series of stretches when I feel anxious or frustrated to mix up the chemicals in my body and let go. I also do certain types of breathing exercises for energy and clarity to help me refocus on my work. Taking just five minutes to actively breathe and stretch can help me in moments when I feel a little stuck or stagnant.
Breathe like a whale.
Blue whales have the largest lung capacity of all living species. They produce an unmistakable blow as they exhale, which is incredibly strong and fast. About 90% of the oxygen they breathe goes directly to their bloodstream, and when they exhale, about 90% of the air empties out. Let's take a leaf out of their book and get present with the strength of our lungs and their ability to clear the mind and body.
The one breathing exercise I never seem to forget over time is alternate-nostril breathing, a yogic breath control practice known as nadi shodhana pranayama in Sanskrit. I love to do this when I begin to feel my breath shortening either from running around too much in my day or feeling anxious or before speaking at a public event.
How, where, and in what ways we love to move our bodies can vary significantly. No matter what it looks and feels like for each of us, moving our bodies out of the habitual positions that we work and spend our day-to-day lives in can help avoid stagnation in the body and therefore the mind.
I do love exercise, but beyond anything, I love to walk. I am certain I get my love of walking from my mum, Sheila. As a child, I was always so confused about why she would want to walk home from work instead of taking the tube, extending a 20-minute journey to nearly an hour. But I now see that it was her time and space to think and transition into home life. I think the phrase "Walk it off" is pretty accurate. If I've had a bad day or my body feels sluggish, I find the act of walking can help clear negative or unwanted thoughts and feelings. I have also lived on my own a lot in my life, and I find getting outside and watching others walk by can totally shift my mood and perspective.
Tips for walking with intention:
- Look up and around yourself; you never know what you might see or witness.
- Set an intention—this could be to smile at a stranger walking by, practice plant and animal identification, or walk a new route you haven't taken before.
- Leave your phone in your pocket, bag, or even at home to resist the urge to look at it instead of your surrounding environment.
- Call a friend to walk with you, or stop by a friend's or neighbor's to see how they are.
- On the days you don't feel like going outside, open up your windows if you can and walk around inside with the intention of shifting energy and getting fresh air.
- If you see a fallen leaf, can you take it home to draw?
- Set an intention to pick up five to 10 pieces of trash you come across. Seeing trash can trigger a whole spectrum of emotions, from sadness to frustration. I pick up a piece and then immediately ask myself, "What impact is this one piece of trash going to make? There are thousands of pieces!" Which is why I give myself a manageable number.
From Go Gently by Bonnie Wright. Copyright © 2022 by Bonnie Wright. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Bonnie Wright is an actress and filmmaker, best known for her role as Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films. She is the author of Go Gently: Actionable Steps To Nurture Yourself And The Planet. For the past ten years, she has been advocating for climate justice and the protection of our environment, partnering with Greenpeace to help reduce ocean plastics. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.