“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” ~ Albert Einstein
As we are currently living through challenging times for many. We wanted to remind people that nature is always there for us, whenever we need her. In these coming weeks and months of social distancing, nature can help our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Try to get out for your daily dose of vitamin N! If you cannot go out, then many of the ideas below could also work or be adapted to being in a garden.
We offer these ideas as starting points, but nature is the true teacher, it has a way of leading us on journeys we never anticipated. Listen to the birds and the wind, they might be trying to tell you something! Go with your gut instincts – you are part of nature too.
These are brief summaries of ideas, we have put a list of resources for nature connection further down the page, if you feel moved to deepen your experience.
Ideas for Nature Connection – on your own or with family
Go on a sensory walk in nature – lets enliven our senses by becoming mindful of them as we move through a natural space. First focus on our sense of sight – really notice what we are seeing – the shades of colours, the shapes and edges, the patterns, the movements, the patches of light and dark. If you wanted, you could try to notice 5 different shades of green (or any colour)? Then move to your sense of hearing – imagine your ears reaching out in all directions around you – what sounds can you hear in the distance? In what direction? Bring your ears back, what can you hear closer to you? If you wanted, you could try to notice 4 different sounds. Then focus on your sense of touch – use your hands to explore what you surrounded by – reach up high and down low, feel different textures. Use other parts of your body than your hands – rub your face against a tree, feel the wind blowing past you. If you wanted, you could try to notice 3 different touches. Then explore your sense of smell – bring your attention to your nose and sniff the air, what subtle aromas do you smell? Perhaps if you get closer to certain things you might get different smells – try flowers in bloom, crushing leaves, the rich earth. If you wanted, you could try to notice 2 different smells. Finally move to the sense of taste – start with tasting the air by opening your mouth and flicking your tongue (like a snake!), you may notice subtle tastes on the air. If you have the knowledge and are confident in recognising the species around you (DO NOT try this if you are unsure – some species are poisonous and could cause you harm) try a small amount of a wild plant – a bit of lush new growth leaf or flower petal. If you wanted, you could try to notice 1 taste.
Breath intentionally, slow your pace – Whilst walking in nature, start to focus on your breathing – the one breath that connects us with all of nature. Imagine as you breath out the Carbon Dioxide getting absorbed by the surrounding green leaves and likewise the Oxygen they are photosynthesising being breathed in by you in the next breath – completing the circle.
Find a ‘sit spot’ to spend some time in – a place that you seem drawn to, to sit down and watch the world go by. If you can spend more than 20 minutes there quietly, it is likely that the wildlife around you will return to their ‘baseline’ behaviours and nature will continue around you. Maybe you’ll hear the birds calling and feeding, or a squirrel climb a tree, or a deer wander past, or a spider weaving its web above you? Who knows what wonders await you?
Go on a ‘wander‘ – set off on a walk with no predetermined destination – let your instincts lead you. Maybe some tracks might catch your eye and you decide to follow them, or you hear a bird call and try to follow it, or maybe its just your gut telling you to ‘go this way’. If you are with your family you could do the walk in silence (perhaps finding other ways to communicate?) and take it in turns to ‘lead’ the wander.
Practice Gratitude Daily (at least!) – it has the most powerful effect. It is proven to be effective at improving mental health (and longer lasting than antidepressants) and it also super charges nature connection. If you can go into nature with a grateful state in your mind, it seems to make the rest of nature more open to you. Animals will come closer as you are no longer perceived as a threat, and synchronicities will start occurring. The best bit is – it doesn’t matter what you are grateful for, just that you are grateful – and there are so many things to be grateful for – cheery primrose flowers, the sound of the blackbirds evening song, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of the rain on the leaves as it falls, for smiles and friendship and love and laughter…. just pick one thing to start.
Take off your shoes and go for a barefoot walk – feel the soft earth yield under your feet supporting you, wiggle your toes in cooling stream water, bury your feet under rich leaf litter or tangled in long grass.
Climb a tree, you don’t have to go too high, but find a spot to sit and rest – feel the power of the tree holding you like a child in its arms. Imagine yourself as an arboreal creature – a bird or squirrel perhaps? – this is your home, feel safe. Gaze out at the land spread out beneath you and the infinite space above you.
Lie down on your back under a woodland canopy – take some deep breaths and close your eyes. Feel the soft earth holding you – we are all spinning round on the surface of this planet at 1,000 mph, but she holds us safely and gently still. When you are ready open your eyes, imagine this is the first time you have seen what is before you -take in as much detail as you can – the colours, the shapes, the patterns, the details, the movement, the light and the dark.
Use your body to express ‘Animal Forms’ – spend some time mimicking other animals, consider how they move and the behaviour they may exhibit in a natural space. If there is more than one of you, play follow my leader and become a pack or a herd! Sound effects are optional but laughter is guaranteed!
Guide a friend on a blindfold experience – if you are with others you could take it in turns to be blindfolded (or just close your eyes) whilst the other person guides you on a journey. You could make the journey adventurous – climbing over branches or crawling through bushes, or sensory – offering things to feel or smell or hear along the way, or mindful – by guiding the blindfolded person without speaking. Take care of each other – and find out what is comfortable for the blindfolded person before you start!
Share your stores of Nature Connection with others – face to face with your family, or over the phone or technology if you are isolating. If you haven’t got anyone to share with start a journal of your adventures in nature and tell your stories to it.
Nature Connection Resources
- The 8 Shields Institute – http://www.8shields.org This is a global movement based on indigenous wisdom to get people reconnected with nature. Sign up to their Newsletters to get free resources and online webinars etc.
- Coyotes Guide to Connecting with Nature – http://coyotesguide.com/ Written by Jon Young, Ellen Haas & Evan McGown This is the main resource book for how to ‘do‘ nature connection using the 8 shields methodology.
- Red Squirrel Resources – https://redsquirrelresources.co.uk/ Online video resources of games, skills and crafts for Nature Connection and Forest School.
Doing some reading whilst isolating?
How about reading up on why Nature is so amazingly important for us humans!?
- Your Brain on Nature, The science of nature’s influence on your health and happiness – http://www.yourbrainonnature.com/ Written by Canadian biophilosopher Alan Logan and Physician Eva Selhub. This book explains what goes on in your brain when you are in nature!
- Richard Louv – http://www.yourbrainonnature.com/ Has written many books including: ‘Last Child in the Woods, Saving our children from nature deficit disorder’, ‘The Nature Principle’, ‘Vitamin N’ and his latest ‘Our Wild Calling’
- Glennie Kindred – http://www.glenniekindred.co.uk/ Has written many books including: ‘Earth Wisdom’, ‘Sacred Earth Celebrations’, ‘Letting in the Wild Edges’ and her latest ‘Walking with Trees’. If you are looking for information about Celtic festivals, celebrating the seasons in an earthy way, folklore and magic associated with trees and plants then Glennies books are for you!
- The Lost Words – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/30/robert-macfarlane-lost-words-children-nature is a beautiful book that was written after these words were taken out of the Children’s Oxford English Dictionary. Words such as Acorn, kingfisher, dandelion and conker. Poems written by Robert MacFarlane and beautifully illustrated watercolours by Jackie Morris.