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On Feeling Alive: Finding Oneself In The Midst Of The Outdoors

Edited by: Janani Mahadevan

I often think that between the multitude of lockdowns and the pandemic, our craving for the outside and outdoors has increased. Lately, I’ve been finding myself engaged with activities that require me to be in the midst of nature, and it has shifted my perspective on things. There’s a ton of research out there reporting the wondrous benefits of being outdoors on mental health. Many of us are already more or less familiar with the science behind it, so instead, here’s a personal account of how I’ve felt being closer to nature. I guess, sometimes, romanticizing life can be good for the mind. I write this article with that inspiration.   

To give some context, I recently moved back to my coastal hometown and have been frequenting the beach and swimming in the sea. I also went for a trek through majestic alpine forests along glacial lakes a couple of months back. Whether it’s the mountains, the beach, a walk amongst lush greenery, or a look up at the night sky, there’s something magical about being in the outdoors. I think this comes from not only its beauty but from it also giving us the realization that we are also made by the same force that created such beauty. There must be something inherently magical about us then too. 

People often say that they feel small among the vastness of Earth, and while it may sound like it, I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing. When I look up at a thousand illuminating stars in the night sky that I couldn’t quite view back at home because of the light pollution in the cities, I am reminded that there are forces so much bigger than me. This shifts perspective, where I am aware that the things I perceive to be as problems maybe aren’t the end of the world, and that there is surely a way through it. It’s nice to take a moment to align with yourself, your thoughts and feel closer to your roots as a human. I feel alive and grateful to be.

Something which puzzled me at first was the sense of belonging I felt when I was in the middle of the sea or amongst the mountains. Despite being kilometers away from home, I felt right at home. I was always born and brought up in the city, so why was it that I felt some familiarity in the woods? I think that this is because of the frequency of the universe that aligns with your internal self. It lifts your mood and things feel like they’re in place. Just to hear the waves crashing or the whistling of the woods is calming. I think that back in the city, life is so fast paced that it becomes necessary  to take a moment to be with yourself. When people pay and download apps that play the white noise of the rain, waves or fire, nothing compares to listening to these sounds in person. It ceases to be ‘noise’ and is the perfect background music while paying attention inwards and to your thoughts.  

Being outside and with the great outdoors has given me some purpose and gives me something to look forward to, not only everyday but also in life. Even on weeks when I’m busy with college work and days fly by with me sitting in front of my laptop, I know that the outdoors is there and waiting for me. I think that this gives me a sense of calmness, just knowing that this oasis exists and is free of cost. Being close to nature has immensely helped me lift my spirits and get closer to finding myself. It has taught me that I already have a lot of strength to draw on from. 

The peace we sometimes crave is out there. I am grateful to live close to these spaces and I’m sure that some version of it exists everywhere. If anything, I hope this read has inspired you to step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air.

Sanjna Vivek

Ashoka '23

An avid trekker, baker, writer and optimist :)
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