These Outdoor Rituals Are Begging For A Spot In Your Summer Routine
Is there anything more electric than the start of summer? A time to crack open closed windows; take long, meandering walks; and plan the season's travel, it feels busting with promise and possibility. If you live in an area with severe winters, this point of the year is also an opportunity to reconnect with nature after months spent indoors.
One of my favorite ways to do so is by taking what I like to call a mental snapshot. At the start of each season, I'll head outside without my phone and take a long, destination-less walk. You can hold off until you're in a more rural setting or just plan to take one through your city or neighborhood.
After 20 minutes or so—when you feel like you're ready to turn around—stand with your feet firmly planted in the ground (bonus points if you're in an area where you can do this without shoes) and quiet the mind. If you have a meditation or breathwork practice, now is a great time to do it.
Think about how you started the spring, the lessons the season brought you, and how you hope to carry them into the summer.
Feel the sensation of your breath and the air on your skin. Move onto the smells that surround. Listen to the chorus of sounds around you. As I was prompted to do during a recent forest bathing experience, imagine that you are standing in a snow globe and trying to tune into the sound that is the farthest away from you, as if it's reverberating off the glass.
Once you feel connected to the surrounding environment, spend a moment reflecting on what's going on inside of you. Think about how you started the spring, the lessons the season brought you, and how you hope to carry them into this summer. From that place of grounding and awareness, take a photo—but instead of snapping a camera, use your eyes as a lens.
Blink slowly and choose to commit that moment to memory.
When I actively connect with moments in nature in this way, they tend to stick with me for longer. It might be because walking supplies the brain with more blood flow, which boosts cognitive function. Or it might have something to do with the fact that spending time outdoors can boost our ability to retain memories1. Whatever the reason, I now have an album of mental snapshots from all over the world in my head—each taken during a quiet, reflective moment—and I'm eternally grateful for every one of them.
More outdoor rituals to try this summer.
To mark this charged moment between Memorial Day Weekend and the official start of summer on June 20, I asked around to see what other seasonal rituals the healers around me were doing. I hope you feel inspired to get outside and give some of them a try too.
"One of my favorite things to do in NYC in the summer is to meditate in a crowded park. I love sitting barefoot, feeling the grass on my feet, closing my eyes and letting the sound of other people enjoying the park be the soundtrack of my meditation. I visualize the roots of a tree extending from the base of my spine all the way into the earth to ground myself. Then I simply meditate on the voices of others, connecting to all of the people I'm sharing that little piece of the earth with."
—Erica Matluck, N.D., N.P., founder of Seven Senses retreats
"I'm a big believer that simple rituals can inspire sacred experiences—like taking my dog for a walk. I try to let this simple act be an invitation to disconnect by leaving my phone at home and resisting the urge to multitask by listening to a podcast or making a call, and instead paying attention to the world around me. When you move half as fast, you notice twice as much."
—Jenn Tardif, founder of 3rd Ritual
"When we lose touch with the elements, we lose touch with ourselves. To connect with each of them, I recommend: Earthing, or putting your feet on the earth, which has health effects that are scientifically proven2; being close to a fire and sharing stories there, as opposed to on Insta stories; taking a dunk in saltwater if you have some near you to refresh your system and serve as a baptism for your mind, body, and spirit; and simply driving with the windows down and setting an intention to enjoy the feeling of freedom."
—Alexandra Roxo, co-founder of Moon Club
"Make a hole in the ground, add fruits, chocolate, biscuits, cookies, honey, and tobacco. Add water on the side, light a candle and copal or sage. Take a coin/crystal, present it to the sun and the four directions, and pass it around your body, cleansing yourself with it, then hold it in your hand and say a prayer of gratitude for everything you have. Thank Mother Earth for the food you eat every day, for the water you drink, etc. Pray for Her healing and then ask Her to help you with what you need to let go off or bring into your life. Sing a song to honor the spirits of nature and then close the hole. This offering helps you develop a relationship with the elements. You might be surprised to see the sun come out on a rainy day and your prayers being immediately answered. Pay attention to the signs, the more present you are, the more you will be able to hear/see."
—Vivien Vilela, co-founder of The BOA Foundation and Aniwa Gathering
"My favorite outdoor ritual in the summer is sitting on my porch at night and listening to the frogs. As a spirit animal, one of the things frogs remind us to be is adaptable since they can exist both on land and in water. As a former Manhattanite, just hearing frogs is remarkable enough, but I also take a moment to feel the wind on my skin and watch the sky. Being outside at night makes me feel very grounded and powerful. That's a great place to co-create from."
—Tanya Carroll Richardson, author and intuitive
"Wake up with the sunrise and spend time outside at this liminal time of day, as darkness gives way to light. Feel the energy, the chi, of new beginnings. Find a spot to sit and observe your surroundings. Notice what's happening on the Earth and how that might relate to what's happening in your internal experience. Next, offer some seeds or flowers to the Earth and say a heartfelt prayer for the Earth and all her beings.
"Take some time to consider what seeds you'd like to plant in your life this year. Ask the question, 'What is it that wants to move through me this year?' You may want to journal or take a silent stroll as you hold this question. The key here is to not 'try' and just to remain open to receiving whatever wants to come through. You may want to include different sensorial elements in your ritual, like lighting a candle, pulling a card, or drinking some tea. When you feel complete, thank the land with more offerings and some closing gesture or prayer of your choice before returning home."
—Julia Plevin, founder of The Forest Bathing Club in an article on connecting with new seasons
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.