Spending time in nature is good for us for lots of reasons. Fresh air and exercise have long been recommended to help us feel better physically and mentally.
But recent studies are showing us that there are many more benefits to be gained from interacting with nature and being more connected to the earth. These studies show that being in nature, living near nature, or even viewing nature in paintings and videos can have positive impacts on our brains, bodies, feelings, thought processes and social interactions.
There are many ways we can develop our connectedness to nature, and these typically involve activities that engage the senses to help develop our connection with the world to unlock the many benefits.
Nature can have a very wide definition. It can mean green spaces such as parks and forests, as well as blue spaces like rivers, wetlands, and beaches. It also includes private gardens and indoor plants.
Here are some simple and beneficial ways you can connect back to nature.
Grounding, and the art of walking barefoot
Grounding (or earthing) is a therapeutic practice, where connecting to the energy of the planet can have a positive effect on your body and mind.
While it sounds all rather “new-age” there is a more scientific angle to this practice, which says that the access to the abundant supply of free electrons and ground can help neutralize free radicals – if only we took off our shows to access them!
Many people swear by earthing as helping them with a range of issues from inflammation to arthritis to insomnia and depression.
How do you do it?
The simplest most natural method of grounding is to go outside and put your bare feet and hands on the ground. You could walk barefoot through your garden, the park or beach. There are other ways to ground yourself, such as sleeping outdoors, sitting on the ground, gardening, standing in the sea waves to name but a few.
There are emotional benefits to be had as well. Have you ever walked barefoot along the beach, listened to the waves, felt the sand and water under toes and just felt that bit happier and calmer? Or more recently has walking in a park during a COVID-19 lockdown helped you cope?
If the one thing you walk away with after reading this article is to walk barefoot whenever you can, then you’re off to a great start.
Quality counts when connecting with nature.
Evidence shows us that there is a correlation between the quality of our relationship with nature and the positive impact on our wellbeing. A strong connection means feeling a close relationship or an emotional connection to our natural surroundings. For instance, we might notice the smell of a rose, feel the soil between your fingers or touching the bark of a tree.
So, get out into nature and touch, smell and listen – use as many of your senses as you can to engage.
Indulge in more nature-based activities
One way to make sure we’re connecting with nature, is to do more activities out of doors that also allow us to connect with our friends and families. Here are some ideas that you’ve probably done before but should try again.
- Go fishing with your kids in the local stream or river
- Grab takeaway fish and chips and go sit on the beach and watch the sun go down
- Take your family to the local park for a picnic on a sunny afternoon
- Let your kids feed the ducks or explore the pebbles and greenery that grows at the end of a stream - you should join them.
- Go for a walk along the beach with a friend rather than having your usual coffee meet up in a café
- Take your kids to the beach even if it’s not summer. Build sandcastles and explore the magical things to be found in the sand (yes, we mean shells and the like)
I know for myself personally, every time I come home after doing something outdoors with my family, I feel like I’ve engaged in something worthwhile, and I feel calmer and happier.
Connect to nature through food
Food is an integral part of how and why humans connect to nature.
The prevalence of fast foods and typical western diets often mean we’re focused more on convenience than we are about reaping the benefit of real food as nature intended.
Growing your own food brings back that connection. Not only is it likely to be organic and therefore more nutritional (and free of toxins), but it also allows you to connect with your family if this is an activity you do with your kids, it allows you to ground yourself by standing or sitting on the ground and physically feeling the dirt and plants with your fingers.
There are likely to be many more ways to simply reconnect with nature, but we’d rather hear from you and what you specifically do. We’re always on the lookout for some great suggestions on ways to improve our health and wellbeing.