You take the dog out daily and enjoy naming plants you see on the countryside walks you take at weekends. You’re already connected to nature, right?
While spending time outside is proven to be good for us, connecting to nature takes it to a whole new level.
What is nature connection?
Put simply, nature connection is the relationship between humans and the rest of natural world. It has, as its core, the understanding that human beings are nature too. We are not separate to, or from, nature.
Therefore, a meaningful relationship with nature will impact how we feel about, and interact with:
- each other
- the rest of the ‘more than human world’ (other ‘beings’ such as trees, plants, wildlife, the elements… ).
Professor Miles Richardson at the University of Derby calls it ‘Nature Connectedness’, and has been conducting scientific studies to measure levels for several years now, partly through The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild programme.
Nature connection (or nature connectedness) takes the relationship beyond simply being outside, and beyond species identification and knowledge. It’s so much more than that. I’ll never forget the phrase I learnt on my Forest Therapy Guide residential training with Gift of the Forest:
“Naming is not the true knowing”.
Why is nature connectedness so significant right now?
We have a high level of nature connection when we feel compassion towards the ‘more than human world’. The creation of this compassionate relationship is the start, but what happens next is of vital importance because directly as a result of our connectedness, our behaviours become more environmentally friendly because we protect what we love. And we have never needed to look after our planet more than we do right now, as we continue to plunder resources and pollute the environment with waste and emissions to such damaging and potentially irreparable levels. There is no need for continuous growth at the expense of the planet or those less fortunate and I hope recent events will bring about a change in attitudes.
The relationship is reciprocal. In Miles’s blog on A New Relationship with Nature, he says, “It is our connection with nature that supports human and environmental health and wellbeing” and he shares evidence showing that increased nature connectedness leads to sustained increases in:
- self-reported personal growth
- a sense that life is worthwhile
- our ability to feel trust, empathy and kindness towards others.
So, in protecting Mother Nature, she protects us.
My personal nature connection
A few years ago, as I prioritised spending time in nature, I recognised I was also beginning to notice the natural world around me in a different way. It was a very gentle lightbulb moment, and I didn’t understand this was the start of nature connection at the time. I have over the years that followed, felt a fundamental shift in who I am; how I see myself and how I see other forms of nature. It’s not something I have measured as such, I’m not really sure how it can be measured, but I feel it within myself, a genuine warmth radiating out from within, and in my mind’s eye I even ‘see’ the connections between my body and other beings around me. (stay with me!). This period of lockdown has been wonderful for enabling me to ‘notice what I’m noticing’ at my own pace. I’ve loved that aspect of it.
These days I am lucky enough to notice the beauty of nature all around me all the time, in all seasons. It means the fast paced walks outside that I used to love so much are largely a thing of the past 🙂
It can take me a very long time just to walk to the end of the road now, as I stop to engage with whatever life I meet on the way. That might be listening to birds singing, watching the creatures crawling or buzzing about their business, feeling the breeze on my skin or in my hair, touching and inhaling the scent from the leaves and the flowers I pass.
And for the arachnophobes out there, although still alarmed, I am considerably braver and infinitely more fascinated than before!
I feel a deep sense of joy and wonder and observe a sentiment of ‘belonging to something bigger’ that simply was not there a few years ago. My son shares in my delight and the fact that he often instigates much of the noticing, fills my heart with admiration and contentment.
I am certain that it is my nature connectedness that has helped me to authentically experience and work through my feelings associated with the Covid19 outbreak (rather than suppressing them or expressing them in unhelpful ways). Despite intense fear, anger and panic at the start, I’ve moved through to acceptance in a relatively short space of time, without the likelihood of my mental health suffering further down the line.
Nature connection is so important because it enables this sort of resilience.
How to develop your own nature connection
I am certain that Mother Nature needs us, and we need her. By establishing and nurturing this reciprocal relationship evidence shows we feel better and our behaviours change for the better. But simply being outside in the natural world isn’t enough, so how do you connect to it? Here are a few ways you can do just that, even during lockdown and in isolation:
Watch it: 👉
Try it: 👉
I recorded a 30 min nature connection meditation in which I guide you through activating your senses. This is usually the first of the invitations I facilitate on one of my sessions. Put on an extra layer, step outside and kick off your shoes. Listening inside but in front of an open window will also work. I hope you’ll be amazed at the difference in how you feel after listening just once, and making time for it regularly will greatly alleviate stress and anxiety. I’d love to hear your feedback.
Read it: 👉
Forest Therapy (also called Forest Bathing) promotes connecting to nature at its core. Nature Connection is one of the 7 key elements I described in a previous blog.
Listen to it: 👉
If you like podcasts, give the BBC’s Earth Podcast a go. It delivers a blend of nature, science and human experience, with world-class storytelling and immersive soundscapes. They also bring you insights and stories from the BBC’s crews as they make some of the most impactful television on the planet. The first episode includes a delightful feature about communicating with a raven, an experience I was also lucky enough to have some months ago.
Book it: 👉
I hope to start public Forest Therapy sessions again in the coming weeks, given they are:
- for small groups
- held outside, often in immune boosting ancient woodland
- proven to benefit mental and physical health.
Vouchers that can be used for any session can be booked now and there’s a ‘Refer a friend and save 20%’ special offer running so get in quick!
Subscribe to it: 👉
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In part 2 of this blog I share in more depth how my own nature connection helped me as I navigated the stress of closing my business, losing my income and becoming a full time, stay at home Mum during the Covid19 lockdown. Sign up to receive monthly blogs by email.
Want to know more?
I’d be glad to discuss forest therapy events tailored to families, a business or specific community group, and to answer any questions you might have about nature connection or forest therapy. Contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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