Humanity's relationship with the natural world is broken. We seem to have forgotten that we are nature and the importance of living in alignment with our natural environment. A 2022 study has put the UK last of fourteen European nations for its "nature connectedness" and oneness to the natural world.
But what is "Nature Connectedness", and why is it important?
Nature connectedness is a measurable psychological construct grounded in science that captures the relationship between people and the rest of the natural world. Not only do those with a high level of nature connectedness enjoy better mental health, but studies have shown that they are more likely to act in environmentally friendly ways. Crucial for conservation and climate change efforts globally.
So, where do we start, and how do we improve our connection with our natural environment? Luckily, like so many things, the simplest answers are often the best. Here we offer five easy ways to integrate nature connection into your everyday life.
1. Notice nature wherever you are
Nature is everywhere. In our modern tech-heavy world and concrete urban landscapes, it is easy to feel disconnected from it. But appreciating that nature is not a destination but all around us is the first step. Whether you're lucky enough to have your own garden, or you can access a local park, nearby beach, or even a sunny courtyard, noticing and spending time in nature is proven to positively impact your well-being and mood and decrease your stress levels.
2. Utilise all of your senses
Nature is a sensory experience. In Japan, forest bathing, the ritual of consciously connecting to the trees and forest, has become a vital part of preventative healthcare. If you don't have access to a forest, you can engage your senses by sitting quietly in the park and listening to birdsong, focusing on a bee fly from flower to flower or literally stopping and smelling the roses. These small exercises can ground you in the present moment and bring some quiet peace and connection into your everyday life.
3. Move outside
If you are able, being physically active in nature, whether going for a run, taking your yoga practice outside or walking the dog, is great for alleviating stress and anger and improving your relatedness to the natural world. Leave your headphones at home and connect with the sounds and smells around you. Aim to switch up your routes to take in different green spaces or water sources to help raise your mood and deepen your relationship with your surroundings.
4. Protect your local environment
Now you're feeling inspired, consider taking part in some conservation activities in your local area. Reach out to your volunteer hub or community space and see what's on offer. Maybe there's a community garden or tree planting project you can get involved with; if not, why not start one? If you want to start smaller, you could dedicate a few hours to litter picking around your local park or beach. Not only is this a great way to get outdoors and learn more about your local flora and fauna, but you might also make new like-minded friends along the way.
5. Create in nature
Studies have shown that nature can enhance creativity by making us more curious, flexible and open to new ideas. Why not channel that creative energy into a painting, song, photograph or short story? Be inspired and keep a nature journal. Think back to your favourite moments when you've felt connected to the earth and start capturing these in a way that speaks to you. Journalling has the added bonus that if you're feeling disconnected in the future, you have a whole catalogue of ideas, drawings and memories you can tap into to reconnect easily.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself
Connecting with nature is a joy and a gift. Use the list above as inspiration but find an activity that works for you and make it a part of your life come rain or shine. If you're a morning person, rise with the birds and watch the sunrise. Night owl, what about sunset? Dance in the rain, walk barefoot on the grass, invite friends for a picnic or sit in deep meditation with the trees and plants. Let your imagination run wild. And remember, as long as you are mindfully connecting and spending time in natural spaces, you're already doing yourself and the planet the world of good.