There is growing evidence about the health benefits of nature, whether it's sitting in nature, walking in nature, smelling wild flowers, touching wood or listening to forest sounds. Exposure to nature has been demonstrated to decrease our level of cortisol (main stress hormone), slow down our heart rate and make us us feel relaxed. (1)
You may have experienced the benefits of nature yourself, when sitting on the beach or walking in the woods. How about making nature connectedness a regular practice and seek a daily dose of nature for well-being?
Please note that nature connectedness is not just exposure to nature, measured in time spent in nature and number of visits. What we do in nature matters more than how long we spend in it. Improving nature connectedness is about nurturing a close relationship with nature.
I have started connecting with nature since taking daily walks around my local area, exploring and discovering public footpaths, noticing birds, trees and flowers and finding beauty in my natural surroundings. More recently, I have become aware of my state of mind when out walking and how noticing good things about nature makes me feel. Whenever I feel overworked, rushed or stressed, I turn to nature. Not just by sitting or walking in nature but by finding beauty and serenity in what is physically in front of me. And it can be as simple as looking through my window at the trees and the sky or closing my eyes and listening to birds singing, or even listening to nature sounds as I work!
You will find below some small steps to help explore and nurture your connection with nature, which has been proven to boost two types of happiness – feeling good and functioning well. (3)
5 minutes of making your relationship to nature personal: Find a location near you that you feel provides a physical connection with nature that makes you feel good. Revisit that special place often. You might even want to take a picture of it to have readily available when you need it.
5 minutes of colour focus: Seeking nature throughout the day helps top up our energy levels. Why not focus your attention on energising colours in nature (red, yellow) when in need of a boost and on calming colours (blue, green, white) for a relaxing effect? Access to a collection of photos of nature can be helpful when access to nature is limited as it has been shown that simply looking at photos of nature can make you feel good. (2)
5 minutes of barefoot: Walking is a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety. The rhythm of our steps is particularly soothing. To be closer to nature, why not take your shoes off and experience nature through the sensory nerve endings in your feet? If indoors, there is the option of having some natural objects to expose your feet to, such as a sheep rug, small stones or conkers.
5 minutes of sunshine: sunshine is an instant mood booster. Feeling it on our faces and arms or on our backs rejuvenates us. Open the window or go out of the door to get your daily dose of sunshine while it's out, especially at times when it is in short supply. And if there is no sunshine, being outside in daylight is the next best thing! If that's not possible, have your favourite photos of sunshine readily available. Sunrises and sunsets are particularly beautiful to look at!
5 minutes of mindfulness: stop, look and listen to nature all around you when you get the chance - what do you notice? What do you hear? What do you smell?
Did you enjoy this post? If so, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments!
If you would like to delve deeper into nature connectedness, I recommend the following free course: Nature connectedness: For a new relationship with nature with the University of Derby.
Knowing the benefits of nature for our physical and emotional well-being is great but it's through regular practice that we actually reap the full benefits.
If you would like to practise with me, you might want to consider joining my Meetup group called Mindful Walking in Henley-on-Thames.