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To connect with nature means to establish a deep and meaningful relationship with the natural world, and to develop an appreciation and respect for its beauty, diversity, and complexity. It involves experiencing a sense of unity, harmony, and interconnectedness with all living things. Most importantly it connects us to and reminds us that humans are part of a larger ecosystem.
Connecting with nature can take many forms and research has shown that connecting with nature has many benefits. Most importantly it can also help to foster a greater sense of community and social connectedness and gives us a sense of stewardship for our world.
A great way to check in on this is to ask yourself - do you stop to take the time to notice the movement of a bee or butterfly or do you recall hearing the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze or notice the bird chirping as you rush about. In our day-to-day hustle we almost completely tune out the natural world and our environment as we focus on our tasks – this is only natural, especially in a city. As with meditation, actively taking the time to stop, look or listen to something, forces us to tune in to and focus on it, to watch its movements, which will give you a sense of connection and shift your perspective.
There are many benefits for people when we stop and connect to nature. We actually tend to forget how influential nature has been on human development and how interconnected and interdependent we are on the natural world. So, beyond the wonderful benefits that we receive by connecting to nature, which we go through below – the overriding, and probably most critical benefit is that it helps us to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world. It cultivates and engrains a sense of stewardship and responsibility towards protecting and preserving nature deep in our soul. It makes us aware of our role as a keystone species and our duty to protect it for future generations becomes innate to who we are through this connection.
Creativity and nature are closely linked and immersing oneself in the natural world can inspire artistic and creative expression. Whether it is ancient cave paintings, impressionist landscapes or even modern landscape photography, artists have been inspired by the beauty and complexity of the natural world since time immemorial. Spending time in nature can help to unlock creativity by igniting our senses or even simply by providing a calm and grounding environment that removes the stress and distraction of daily life and opens us up to inspiration and reinvigorates our creative energy.
Nature has long been recognized as an important teacher, providing opportunities for learning and growth in a variety of areas. Nature experiences can help to foster curiosity, creativity, and a love of learning and outdoor education programs are becoming increasingly popular because we finally recognize the value of hands-on experiences in natural environments. Whether it's learning about the life cycle of plants, studying animal behaviour, or developing leadership and teamwork skills through outdoor challenges, nature has much to offer as a classroom and is our oldest and wisest teacher.
Connecting with nature can be a powerful way to build community and social connections. Whether it's through group activities like hiking or gardening, or simply by sharing a love of nature with others, connecting with nature can help to break down barriers and foster a sense of belonging. It can also be a way to build stronger relationships with friends and family members, as you create shared experiences and memories connecting with nature while connecting with others.
The connection between nature and spirituality is a fascinating and complex topic. Throughout history, humans have looked to the natural world for guidance, inspiration, and connection to something greater than themselves. Whether the ancient Greeks who worshipped the gods of the earth and sky, or modern spiritual movements that emphasise environmental stewardship, the natural world is unshakably interconnected and interdependent with human spirituality and our perception of our existence.
One interesting aspect that is sometimes overlooked in discussions of connecting with nature is the importance of all of our senses in the experience. While sight and sound are often the focus when it comes to appreciating natural beauty, there is so much more to connect with in the natural world.
For example, the scent of pine needles or wildflowers can be incredibly evocative, sparking memories or creating a pervasive sense of calm. The feel of cool water on our skin, or the texture of moss or tree bark under our fingertips, can be a powerful way to connect with the physical world around us. And even the taste of wild berries or herbs can be a way to deepen our connection with the natural environment.
By engaging all of our senses when we connect with nature, we can create more immersive and memorable experiences that are impactful and profound.
Below are some simple and fun ways to connect to nature, whether in the wild or in urban spaces. We tend to miss some of the great opportunities that exist to connect with nature even in an urban environment.
Take a hike in a natural area with scenic views;
Find somewhere to sit and lean back, or better yet lay down, and look at the clouds, see what shapes you see and how they move - something we seem to stop doing when we become adults;
Watch a sunrise or sunset;
Observe wildlife in their natural habitats – everyone thinks of safaris or getting out into the middle of nature to do this. What about stopping to watch the movement of a butterfly, listen to the hum of a bee that you happen to come across on your way about the city?;
Stargaze or moon gaze on a clear night.
Listen to the sounds of birds singing or water flowing;
Take a walk in the woods or park to hear the rustling of leaves and branches;
Attend an outdoor concert or performance or outdoor theatre in a park;
Meditate to the sound of waves crashing on the shore, leaves rustling in the breeze;
Stop and listen to birds chirping no matter where you are.
Take a deep breath of fresh air in a natural area;
Smell wildflowers or blooming trees in the spring or just stop to smell a flowering plant you come across in the city – if you are paying attention and tuned in, you will be surprised at the sudden appearance of even exotic unexpected smells – like catching a whiff of Jasmin even in London;
Walk in a woods, field or best of all a forest after a rainstorm to smell the earthy scent;
Inhale the aroma of herbs or flowers in a garden or as you wander past public parks and plants.
Go for a swim in a natural body of water or even take the time to feel the water on your skin in a shower or bath.
Feel the texture of tree bark or moss on a nature walk.
Sit on a park bench, doorstep, or anywhere you can tilt your head to sun and feel its warmth;
Stop, close your eyes and feel the wind or your face and how your body feels and responds;
Walk barefoot on a sandy beach or grassy field, a common or park or anywhere you can connect to the earth;
Run your hands through grass and feel the texture;
And if it is warm enough – try standing out in the rain and looking up with your eyes closed.
Eat a meal outdoors, surrounded by nature;
Taste wild berries on a nature walk or drink from a clean natural water source;
Savour the flavour of raw, fresh, locally grown produce – especially all the spring produce coming into bloom;
Enjoy a picnic in a park or natural area.
The sixth human sense is commonly referred to as intuition or our "gut feeling." When it comes to this sense, connecting to nature is one of the most powerful ways to develop our instinct and intuition. Nature provides the perfect environment for us to simply be present in the moment and listen to your inner voice. Take some time to sit quietly in a natural setting and allow your thoughts to drift away. Focus on your breath and pay attention to any sensations or emotions that arise within you. This can be a powerful way to tap into your intuition and connect with the natural world on a deeper level. Additionally, many people find that practices like meditation, yoga, or tai chi can help to quiet the mind and enhance their sense of inner awareness, making it easier to connect with nature through their sixth sense.
In conclusion, humans are a keystone species that dramatically impacts the global ecosystem. Being connected to nature will make us more aware of and in tune with the natural world that is all around us and which we rely on. By engaging with nature through all of our senses, we can create a more holistic and enriching experience, deepening our connection and understanding. A deeper appreciation for the natural world cultivates a greater sense of stewardship and responsibility towards protecting and preserving it.