In ancestral times we hunted, gathered, and survived in nature. A landscape of green was the place we called home and we considered it our ally.
But in today’s world, more and more of our ancient green spaces are lost to urbanisation and monoculture. This rapid change puts unwanted pressure on our bodies and mind. As a result, we have seen that chronic illnesses, stress, depression, anxiety, burnout, and other ailments are on the rise. There is also an increase in apathy, anger, addictions, intolerance, and loneliness. And nature is no longer considered a living friend but instead, something to be dominated, used, or even afraid of.
There is now a wealth of evidence showing the healing power of nature. Japan and South Korea have even created many healing forests where they practice forest bathing and nature-inspired mindfulness.
What is Nature Connection?
We all know that being in nature is good for us, but developing a connection to nature offers transformative, long-lasting benefits for both humans and the planet.
Nature Connection has been proven to benefit us so much more than time spent in nature, which for many of us is usually active such as running, cycling or walking with the dog or friends, therefore generally not noticing nature.
The first step in connecting to nature is to notice nature. This means going beyond the passive, largely unconscious, receipt of sensory information and intentionally and fully focusing attention on the natural world. Counting steps, mobile phones and chit-chat are all unnecessary and will only serve to dilute the experience.
What is the definition of Nature Connection?
The term Nature Connection is used to describe our relationship with the natural world, including how we feel about it, think about it and behave towards it. In recent years humans have begun to see themselves as separate from nature, with an increasing amount of time being spent indoors, connected to technology, when in fact, we humans are nature. You are connected to nature when you feel a kinship with the natural world.
Why is Nature Connection important?
The warming climate and biodiversity loss show the human-nature relationship is failing.
Nature isn’t something to be frightened of, to consume, damage, or deplete without care or consequence. Without nature, we humans are nothing. When you see yourself as a part of the natural world, you see nature as your ally and take steps to protect it. Research shows that those of us with a greater connection to nature are more likely to behave positively towards the environment, wildlife and habitats, as well as experience a number of positive health benefits, for example feeling more satisfied with life, a sense of belonging to something bigger and increased ability to bounce forward after life’s inevitable ups and downs.
Research from the Nature Connectedness Research Group in Derby has scientifically shown that there are 5 pathways that lead to a deeper connection with nature. The pathways to nature connectedness are:
- Senses – heightening your senses and tuning into nature
- Beauty – noticing nature’s beauty
- Emotions – feeling alive through the emotions and feelings nature brings
- Compassion – caring and taking action for nature
- Meaning – nature bringing meaning to our lives
I’ve listed 25 simple Nature Connection ideas for all seasons:
What do you need?
Whether you’re heading off for a walk or staying in your home or garden, it’s a great idea to have a journal and writing/drawing materials with you. I’d also recommend bringing a charged phone, drinking water and clothing appropriate for the weather.
All the activities below are designed to bring nature to the forefront of your mind, and conversely, completely quieten rumination thoughts. Practicing mindfulness in nature is so much easier than listening to an app because you don’t have to try to stop the mind chatter, it simply happens as you tune into and focus on our awe-inspiring, diverse, ever-changing natural world.
Start by going outside to somewhere safe and peaceful and pay attention to your surroundings.
Switch your phone to airplane mode to use it for mindful photography without seeing any missed notifications or calls. You also won’t need your headphones or anything that would prevent you from fully engaging in your surroundings, for example, friends or dogs! You will have the best experience when you are completely free from all responsibilities and can therefore immerse yourself entirely in your personal, private nature connection practice.
Pathway 1 – Senses – Heightening your senses and tuning into nature
Notice and actively engage with nature, spending time fully experiencing nature with all your senses.
1. A great way of starting your experience is with the very simple ‘5, 4, 3, 2, and 1’ grounding technique that you can do on a mindful nature walk.
While you’re wandering slowly, observe and bring your attention to:
- 5 things you can see around you
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell and
- 1 thing you can taste.
Caution – for taste, unless you’re an experienced forager, it’s best to just breathe in through your mouth for this one. Alternatively, you could replace taste with your vestibular sense, go barefoot and bring in a balancing yoga pose such as the tree or the aeroplane.
By taking each sense in turn, you can make that connection to nature more easily.
Tip – For touch, you could hug a tree – read the blog to find more about the benefits of tree-hugging.
Pathway 2 – Beauty – Noticing nature’s beauty
Slowing down to notice nature’s beauty is probably my personal favourite of all the pathways. Some ideas:
2. Try mindful photography – take 5 photos of ‘red and round’
3. Find joy in the little things in nature
4. Focus on the light during a mindful walk
5. Smell the flowers
6. Spend the day at a glorious garden such as Exbury Gardens in the New Forest, Southampton, or Sir Harold Hillier’s Gardens in Romsey
7. Listen to the psithurism – the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind.
Pathway 3 – Emotions – feeling alive through the emotions and feelings nature brings
Here you some ways to actively seek to generate joy and cultivate a sense of awe and wonder in nature:
8. Watch the sunrise or sunset
9. Stay up late to stargaze
10. Observe incredible cloud formations
11. Gain perspective on life from nature’s magnitude
12. Get up early to listen to the dawn chorus
13. Look up into the canopy of trees in summer
Pathway 4 – Compassion – caring and taking action for nature
Additionally, you could try these Nature Connection ideas to protect and care for nature:
14. Create a hedgehog highway
15. Plant a pollinator pit stop
16. Organise a litter pick in your community
17. Join and volunteer with your local wildlife trust
18. Reduce waste
19. Grow your own without pesticides and include some sacrificial plants for caterpillars
20. Create a wildlife pond in your garden
Pathway 5 – Meaning – nature brings meaning to our lives
Finally, here are some Nature Connection practices to celebrate the mystery, messages, and cycles of nature:
21. Honour nature’s seasonal celebrations (the solstice, equinox, the pagan or Celtic festivals)
22. Celebrate the moon cycles
23. Add seasonal reflections into your nature connection practice
24. Read folk stories about nature
25. View nature metaphorically to help forge deeper self-understanding
The ideas are all well and good, and I know that it’s not always that easy to put them into practice, especially if you’re overloaded and struggling. Expecting you to clear your mind without guidance and support is probably a step too far, and if you think you’d find it easier with a nature connection guide, I’d love to help.
hope to see or hear from you soon.
With warm wishes