With more than half of the world's population living in cities, humans have lost touch with nature. The concrete jungle and the rat race suck up our time and energy and we feel stressed, anxious or like we have lost meaning. We have middle life crises, travel to 'find ourselves', fight depression with pills, change jobs and cars but, somehow, we cannot fill that void. We don't know what's wrong.
What we are truly lacking is a connection with the wild world and its rhythms. Today we don't need to hunt or gather food for sustenance, work hard to build a shelter or collect wood for fire every other day in the winter. We don't need to protect ourselves or our food from predators. Our lives revolve around paying bills, buying things we don't actually need, drinking to feel something and staring at a computer screen.
Even in a world where most eco-systems have been devastated and wild animals are a rarity, there are many things we can do to reconnect with nature, find purpose and feel more alive.
If you feel lost, apathetic or unhappy, try to rewild yourself a little. Here are 13 easy ways you can do it without having to do anything drastic, like go and live in the woods.
1) Go on a leg powered journey
The simplest way to get back into the way of life of our ancestors is to travel in a more traditional way. We didn't evolve driving on a motorway or riding a train. Slowing down, and walking to the top of a mountain, canoeing across a lake, riding a horse or being taken on a journey through wild country by a husky dog sled are all great ways to reconnect with nature.
2) Take note of changes
To reconnect with nature you need to really look for changes of the seasons, such as temperature drops, amount of hours of light, the activity of your local animals and the colour of the leaves on the trees. These felt like big changes to our ancestors.
3) Give nature a home
In urban areas there aren't many places where wildlife can find shelter and thrive. Help nature by giving it a home. Build a pond, make a birdhouse to put in your garden, leave water out for foxes and hedgehogs or place a bird feeder in your garden. You can also plant wild flowers to help the bees or grow gorse to offer shelter to birds. Getting close to wild creatures will make you feel connected to the natural world.
4) Take time to visit truly wild places
Whilst a walk to the park is always pleasant, you should make an effort to spend time in wild places where you can observe a variety of natural eco-systems. Go for a long walk in a nature reserve or a natural forest and stop for at least 10 minutes to have a look around you. Try to spot a red squirrel or a bird you've never seen before, or just take in the view and listen.
5) Walk barefoot
Our ancestors used to walk barefoot, so why not try that out? Feeling the soil under your feet is an excellent way to feel more in touch with nature.
6) Build a shelter
Creating a temporary home from scratch using wood, leaves and other natural materials is very rewarding. It proves that we can look after ourselves and survive in the wild without the need of technology.
7) Grow your own herbs or vegetables
Another great way to feel connected to the cycles of nature is growing herbs or vegetables. Follow the process of growth from a seed into a plant and harvest it when it's ready. You'll learn the art of patience and get to taste real food you nurtured yourself.
8) Use your senses
In a primitive world our survival depended heavily on our senses. Nowadays, we rarely need to use them to their full extent. Touch the bark of a tree, pick the pine nuts in a pinecone, listen to the birds sing, feel and disassemble a leaf or smell freshly broken pine needles.
9) Go track animals
Our ancestors needed to track animals to hunt and stay away from predators. Today most wild animals have lost their habitat and it's difficult to find them. Animal tracking is a fun way to get outdoors and feel the presence of the few wild animals we have left. Even though you may not be lucky enough to see the creature you're tracking, you can tell how long ago it walked that land, which is a powerful sensation. Some easy to identify animal tracks include foxes, badgers and squirrels and some of these probably live within a couple of miles of your house.
10) Watch sunset or sunrise
Watching the sun go down or rise every other day is also an excellent way to get in touch with the rhythm of the day and the season. And in the autumn and winter months, it doesn't mean getting up early.
11) Exercise your inner wildness
Through evolution, humans have gained some incredibly fine tuned attributes that we never use in our comfortable day-to-day lives; a finely tuned sense of fear, lightning fast reactions and incredible teamwork. We didn't evolve these abilities through commuting to work on a train and sitting in front of a computer all day. We evolved them evading predators and hunting dangerous animals.
While we don't need to do that anymore, we haven't 'un-evolved' these amazing abilities, and exercising these traits gives us a huge rush and reconnects us with our wild selves. We don't have to kill a mammoth to get this rush, we can get it through a variety of modern day activities - mountain biking, skiing, rock climbing, riding a rollercoaster or handling a spider all challenge our everyday comfort and exercise a bit of wildness.
12) Forage some wild food
When was the last time you ate something that didn't come out of a package? The way we eat food has drastically changed through history - from hunter-gatherers to shoppers. Picking berries, gathering chestnuts or collecting mushrooms are an excellent ways to feel connected to the earth. Not only do these wild foods taste great, they also bring the satisfaction of being able to provide for ourselves.
13) Spend a night outdoors
Spend a night (or two!) wild camping in the woods to immerse yourself in nature. If you have a chance, try bivvying out. Falling asleep under a sky full of stars and listening to the sounds of nature is a great way to truly connect with the environment around you.
Even if you can't or don't want to leave your comfortable urban life, get out there and be wild every now and then. If you regularly do that, you will start to get drawn towards nature. You will miss the feeling of walking on leaves, sitting on trunks, watching red squirrels, enjoying a sunset and cooking a meal outdoors. You'll go back to find yourself again.