Aside from being known as the city that never sleeps, it could also be known by another label (which, based on my experience, holds equally true): the city where no one eats in their own kitchens.
In light of the fact there are actually tens of thousands of menu options, it makes sense. While I love meeting friends at a restaurant (or a transplant—shout out to North Dakota), there’s another outdoor dining experience that I think everyone should take advantage of as often as possible: a picnic.
“Extraordinary experiences can be a big influence on your mind.”
Picnics are classics for a reason, but I think they don’t get recognition they deserve. In addition to eating yummy finger foods and enjoying cute decor, you can reap the mental rewards of spending time outdoors (more on those benefits later).
Aura Priscel De Los Santos, a clinical psychologist, describes spending time outside as “medicine for the mind.” Is that so? It is only by sharing meals with friends that those “medicines” become stronger.
So, as a self-proclaimed picnicking expert, I’m sharing my tried-and-true tips (along with essentials like EVOLVE® Plant Protein Shakes), along with all the benefits of the informal, al fresco dining style.
Tips and tricks for becoming a picnicking pro, too.
Logistics of the picnic
Before we discuss the benefits of picnicking from a psychological viewpoint, I’d like to first describe how I personally like to picnic. What picnic basket do I have? Sorry. Where do you want to go? Not really-a centrally located park is best (and no, it need not be Central Park). A picnic complete with an Instagrammable red checkered blanket, baguettes, and a bottle of bubbly? That’s not the case at all.
Aimee Daramus, Psy.D, says letting go of those rigid expectations helped me enjoy picnics more, so I can use my outdoor picnic as a mental health boost.
Perfection will only prevent you from savoring in the experience, which is one of the benefits of being outdoors. Remember to focus on the experience and be as present as you can when you’re distracted by thoughts about whether or not you’re doing this right.”
I have a few specific suggestions in addition to not sweating the small stuff. You can take out and eat in a park for a picnic as low-key as picking up takeout. There’s nothing wrong with solo picnics, and taking out makes that much easier.
Make sure you drink plenty of water. They are easy to pack because they come in tasty flavors like Berry Medley, Double Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, and Café Mocha, and contain 20 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber.
Benefits of picnicking
We will now look at picnicking’s benefits. Many studies have linked spending time in nature with mental health and well-being, but as someone who works behind a screen, I sometimes find it difficult to find the time.
By taking regular picnics, I am habit stacking – stay with me here – which means I am integrating an existing habit (eating) with a habit I would like to build on (being outside). In addition, I spend less time watching television, converse with my partner and friends more, and stay out of my one-bedroom apartment less.
As a bonus – for all of you productivity-motivated individuals out there – according to Dr. Daramus, relaxing outside during non-productive times can also increase your productivity later.
Having trouble convincing yourself you would be better off in a shady spot on the grass instead of the dining table? It is just a matter of exploring the outdoors a bit more. She says that being outside enhances creativity and happiness as well as improving sleep. Perhaps regular picnics are exactly what the doctor (ahem, psychologist) ordered for all city dwellers, transplants and natives alike.
Image courtesy of Getty Images/Lyndon Stratford