When talking about calm, serene environments, we think green spaces, starry skies, silent nights and fresh air. Words that don'tspring to mind: traffic jams, Laundromats, shopping malls, smog. For city dwellers, such calm, serene environments are often only a product of our daydreams, far off magical lands where public transport doesn't exist. If you need to find a real-life happy place -- and moving to the country isn't an option -- don't despair. Here are a few ideas to bring calm and serenity to your urban life.
So you don't have four acres of land behind your house, or even a backyard. There's plenty of fresh air out there, so grab some. Find a park or a stretch of grass near your workplace. Pack your lunch (or pick up some take-out sushi) and spend your lunch hour outdoors. It might not be the great outdoors, but being out of the office, even for a little while, can rejuvenate you.
Bring outside in
Grab your garden gloves, get planting and reap the benefits of indoor plants. In addition to brightening up your living room or desk, indoor plants can clean the air around you by taking in carbon dioxide. Digging around in the dirt is a definite stress buster, and watching your fern grow -- in spite of the smog outside -- will give you a sense of accomplishment. Give new meaning to the term urban jungle!
Get your urban family together
Dinner is Chinese takeout -- for the third time this week. Just because your mother and father and cousins are in other provinces doesn't mean traditional, sit-down dinners have to be a thing of the past. If cooking a huge dinner for just a few seems like a waste, invite more people. Invite your surrogate family, your friends and their families. What could be more relaxing than gathering loved ones around the table for great food and stimulating conversation? Make it a weekly thing, alternating houses and responsibilities (one week, you're in charge of the main course, the next, you do dishes).
Don't take shortcuts
One of the best things about living in a city is how many things are made quicker for you. You can go through the touch-less car wash in three minutes, drop off your laundry and pick it up clean and folded a few hours later, you can get a complete workout in less than thirty minutes. Sure, it can be a godsend, but sometimes you want to get your hands dirty. Hand-wash your laundry and dry it outside. Fill a bucket with soapy water and scrub the car yourself. Go for a long walk or do yoga in the park (the bigger the city you live in, the less likely people will look at you funny, if they even notice). Take your time to get the task done and you'll find your head will be clearer as a result.
Slow down your food
Food, too, has gone the way of quicker is better. Get your salads pre-washed and bagged, or pick up some veggies for a stir-fry, pre-sliced and ready to go. With all the preservatives in produce these days, who knows how long it's been since it's been growing on a tree or in the earth? Buy some fresh stuff. Most cities in Canada have a farmer's market, where you can actually talk to the people responsible for growing your food. The taste of just-picked strawberries, or the heat of a still-warm loaf of bread -- you can't package that. Take the time to find some great ingredients, cook a meal and savour every bite. Not living anywhere near a farm doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the joy of eating fresh.
There are some great things about urban living. Shopping, entertainment and culture are usually in abundance. Living in a city means that if you want it, you can usually get it, no matter how obscure. But when all the hustle and bustle gets to be too much, think about how you can bring some elements from outside the city to you. You can have the best of both worlds.