Written by Devin Cowens with photos by Aja Pijeaux
In the past few years, I’ve had a myriad of life stressors that have increased my anxiety. I’ve tried many solutions, and over time have learned to quiet my mind and spirit through relaxation methods and finding activities that bring joy while encouraging me to slow down.
I’ve had to deprogram my mind from societal conditioning that we must be productive at all times. Teaching myself that rest is necessary has been a key tenant in my path toward finding joy and maintaining my mental health.
Taking the time to slow down and relax is something I often take for granted with leading a busy life, so I’m excited to share my journey into slowing down and some of my go-to methods for relaxing close to home.
Go Bird Watching
Towards the end of last year, a friend invited me to a local birding meetup at a nearby park. Knowing very little about birds, but being very interested in checking out the park, I said yes. The result of that one-time meetup has blossomed into a love for what I hope will become a lifelong hobby of birding.
I find birding so meditative and relaxing. It forces me to slow down because it requires me to focus more on my surroundings, listen, look, and be patient; which aids in reducing my anxiety because my body feels more grounded and at one with nature.
It is the perfect “do-it-from-anywhere” activity because the gear to get started has a low barrier to entry. I thrifted my first pair of binoculars and downloaded an app on my phone to identify bird sounds.
I have birded all over - from my front porch, in my backyard, at the top of a hike, to most recently in a tree canopy in North Vancouver! It’s an easy passive activity that engages my senses. I’ve even memorized a few bird songs for the birds local to my region!
Read in a Hammock
Hammocking is next on my list for a go-to relaxation activity. Some weekends, or on a slow weekday morning when I don’t have any calls, I’ll walk or bike to a nearby park, set up my ENO hammock, and do a little reading.
I typically bring my SuperSub Ultralight Hammock because it’s perfect for one person and weighs next to nothing so it doesn’t take up a ton of space in my bag. I pair that with my Helios Ultralight Straps, which are ultra-compact and I love how quickly I can set them up.
The feeling of laying in a hammock and listening to the birds, feeling the wind, and being still invites an incomparable calmness to my day. Sometimes I’ll bring my monoculars and get in some birding while hammocking too.
Have Coffee Outside
My first year in Atlanta, working as a barista at a specialty cafe sparked my interest in the process of making coffee and bringing out the nuances in the flavor of fresh beans.
Making coffee in the mornings has been an essential piece of my routine for starting the day and centering myself. I love the methodical process of weighing the beans, heating the water, and timing the brewing just right.
I’ve been able to translate this routine to biking to local parks to make coffee outside on Friday mornings in Atlanta. I grind the beans fresh once I arrive and make coffee with a pour-over setup of my choice.
It’s the best when I can arrive early enough to catch the sunrise and sip my coffee while setting an intention for the day. I sit back in my ENO Lounger DL Chair, and start my day right. Carving out this time in the mornings brings joy, consistency, and necessary quiet time to my week.
Take Meditative Walks
Finally, meditative walks have been an easy thing to integrate into my morning routine. After I wake up and have my coffee, I’ll grab my headphones and pick a short meditation to listen to and walk for 20-30 minutes around my neighborhood.
These walks aim to give my mind the space to unfurl any thoughts or feelings that have been looming. They are a grounding way to reset.
The most important piece here is that all of these relaxing activities have a low cost of entry. They can be accessed at any time, or whenever I’m feeling wound up or need to tap into some stillness during the week. I hope that sharing these activities sparks some ideas for anyone reading to find some ways to low-cost, minimalist ways to relax in their own backyard.
Author BioDevin is an ENO Ambassador. She’s an outdoor enthusiast and community organizer who spends a lot of time cycling, running, and spending time in nature.