Have you ever felt immersed in the sound and smell of nature? The smell of trees, the sound of water flowing down the creeks, and the overall feeling of joy and inner peace is one unforgettable experience.
Our day-to-day lives usually involve the blaring sounds of cars, loud voices, and sometimes unpleasant environments in the modern world. Connecting with nature has a way of bringing peace amidst our busy lives.
Read on as we walk through the benefits of connecting with nature and suggest various ways you can connect with nature starting today.
The curious and scientists have studied the connection between humans and nature for many decades. Researchers have variously theorized that time spent in nature aids childhood development2. They also discovered that people connect with representations of nature like wall art.
Certain areas of study have attributed the human connection with nature to the Biophilia theory.
This theory states that human beings have an innate need to connect with nature and natural organisms. If we consider the theory of evolution, human beings lived and tried to adapt to the East African Savanna environment for millions of years.
Today, we possess physical and psychological features which helped humans survive in that environment.
As such, some suggest we can link our appreciation of plants and nature scenes to our genetic heritage. Also, our appreciation of animals may have been a result of our experiences.
Connecting with nature plays a significant role in improving our physical and mental health4. Here are a few benefits that come with connecting with nature:
Urban life is associated with increased levels of stress and even depression. Connecting with nature can reduce stress in daily life and also improve your mental health. Studies reveal that spending as little as 10 minutes in natural surroundings can help students feel happier and reduce physical and psychological stress1. Furthermore, studies show that taking a window view of nature from the top floor of your office can alleviate job stress and improve your overall well-being3.
You may wonder, how does this happen? Connecting with nature leaves us engrossed with a feeling of calm, taking away our focus from the stress or pain we may feel.
A little bit of contact with nature can perform wonders for patients in recovery. According to studies, a university hospital in Sweden surveyed 160 heart surgery patients. Some patients were placed in hospital rooms with nature paintings, while observers put others in rooms with abstract paintings or no paintings at all.
The survey results revealed that patients in rooms with nature paintings were less anxious and required a lesser dose of pain medication than patients in the other rooms without representations of our natural world.
While we rely on a cup of coffee for a morning boost, immersing ourselves in nature is also a great way to boost our energy levels when starting our day. A study at the University of Rochester revealed that being outdoors in nature makes people come alive both physically and mentally.
The western world can sometimes limit us from cultivating a connection with nature. Our development has replaced many natural landscapes with urban housing, the trapping of commerce, and road systems. Connecting with nature sometimes requires deliberate action rather than making it a spontaneous event.
Here are 19 ways you can connect with the natural world and improve your overall well-being:
One of the most important ways to connect with nature is to truly be present in the moment. Modern society trains us to live a fast life, from scheduling meetings to beating traffic to eating fast food. We live in such a fast-paced world that we forget to focus and savor the present moment.
To build a connection with nature, you must first detach yourself from all the noise and channel your energy towards nature experiences. You can practice this by first taking out a few minutes within everyday life to detach yourself from your busy schedules, take deep breaths and spend time taking in the trees, birds, and everything within your natural surroundings.
Related: What is mindfulness, and how does it help us seize the day?
To truly feel connected to nature, you must learn to engage your five senses. Nature is a sensory experience that involves seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and sometimes tasting. If you find it particularly difficult to relax or stay calm, tuning into your five senses is the first step to feeling more relaxed.
So when you get outside, start by engaging your five senses. Take a deep breath, feel the wind and sun penetrate your skin, and listen closely to the whistling sound of trees and the sound of birds and insects. Focus further on these sounds and engage your sense of smell and taste. Engaging your senses whenever you’re outside allows you to appreciate your natural surrounding rather than passing them by.
Connecting with nature can happen in various ways. One way to deeply connect with nature is to do so while expressing your inner creativity. You could do this through the lens of a camera, a drawing, or a painting.
You can explore your creativity by taking photos of animals, trees, the sky, water, and all of nature’s surroundings. You could also sit in your favorite quiet spot and draw or paint beautiful natural scenery. This helps to calm your nerves, improve your mood and inspire creative ideas. Time away to think in nature might also help provide you with a new perspective on a problem or worry.
Reading nature books and quotes is a great way to take your mind on a psychological journey through nature’s beauty. You can read books related to different aspects of nature.
For example, you can search for books that explain the history and evolution of animals and plants. You could also go for more creative books. Perhaps read nature poetry or read nature quotes that spur you towards nature.
With nature books, you can also deepen your knowledge of the world around us. If you prefer to listen to what nature has to offer, nature podcasts could be just what you're looking for.
Getting a good sit spot can help you maintain consistency in developing a nature connection. When you step outside, find a spot to sit that provides a view of the scenery nature offers. Having a regular place to sit and spend time in natural surroundings helps you appreciate and pay attention to weather patterns as well as the daily or monthly cycles of animals and plants.
Animals are cute, intelligent, and sometimes entertaining. You can watch the day-to-day life of these animals and even pick a few lessons from them. Taking time out to watch the ants move up a tree or a squirrel go down a hole can help you feel more deeply connected with nature. You can watch the day-to-day life of these animals and even pick a few lessons from them.
Creating the time to do this as often as possible or perhaps when you need a distraction or a moment out will help you feel more grounded with the natural world around you.
If you live near a local park or an area with trees, then bird watching is an activity you should try. The experience can be both liberating and fascinating. You can look outside your window or take a walk down the park and observe the day-to-day life of birds.
You might just notice how birds form their nests during mating season or how a family of birds bicker at each other. With birdwatching, you can enhance your connection with nature and appreciate a little more some of the diversity around us and close to home.
Do you love trees, flowers, and plants? Having green living things around us is a great way to connect with nature. You can visit a local garden or grow a few plants in your backyard. Take out time to pay attention to the movements of plants. Meditate on their scent. Notice their stems, leaves, roots, and everything in between. You could also take time to study the different kinds of plants, and their names and observe how they interact with insects and other organisms.
Walking, running, or hiking comes with its health and wellness benefits. While you savor the moments of nature, you can improve your health through exercise. You can take a different route or course around your neighborhood and explore nature in all its beauty. You could also invite friends or family members to create a shared experience.
If you've always been curious to learn about the stars, sitting under the night sky is an excellent opportunity to do so. You can gather some friends and family to sit with you and explore the night sky. Doing this is a great way to strengthen relationships, connect with nature and find some sense of identity and contemplate our place in the universe.
What's better than enjoying your favorite meal with friends at a park? Picnics are always a great way to bond with loved ones and with nature.
You can create time to visit your favorite park with your friends and create a list of nature-viewing activities to try out. Check out our guide to zero-waste picnics for ideas on how to do so with less waste.
Watching the dawn or the end of a day can bring feelings of peace and tranquillity. You could spend time every morning watching the sunrise right from your window. If you are feeling anxious after a long day, you could take a stroll to a park or a favorite hideout that gives you a good view of the sunset and simply enjoy the view of a beautiful evening sky.
There’s something extraordinary about being close to water or sitting and watching the waves roll over the sand. You might well find the experience and opportunity to reflect for a few moments, benefitting your mental health, while creating feelings of happiness and peace.
Being active in the water, from canoeing to surfing or just taking a swim in a natural environment, also provides the added benefits of exercise. Furthermore, these activities offer a great excuse to get outdoors and enjoy all that nature has to offer.
If you want to immerse yourself in nature fully, going camping could be an ideal way to do so. With camping, you can completely detach yourself from all the hustle of city life and take out time to experience nature. while enjoying the fresh air away from the city.
You can spend time engaging your senses during outdoor activity and enjoy nature in its fullness, free of interruptions. Camping is also a great way to bond with loved ones.
Growing plants is one way to deepen your nature connection. Going through the process of planting a seed, nourishing it, and watching it grow increases your appreciation for nature. You don’t have to learn any complicated gardening techniques. Simply get some seeds, plant them in soil or perhaps a plant pot, and add some water every day.
As you nourish your plant, enjoy the sunlight on your skin, feel the dirt in your hands, and inhale the smell of fertile soil. Immerse yourself in every moment spent and appreciate each process of growing your plants in your own backyard.
Related: Check our gardening quotes for some more green space inspiration.
Taking part in conserving nature doesn’t just benefit the environment but can also deepen your connection with nature. There are various ways you can take part in protecting nature. Some of these include:
While some of the ways to connect with nature involve being outdoors, you can also connect with nature from the comfort of your home. Nature documentaries are an excellent medium for learning about nature and taking your mind to places you may not be able to visit physically. You can watch documentaries on wildlife, plants, or water bodies.
The good news is that these days you’ll find a great selection to stream without having to leave the house or require shipping and packaging to ensure you can watch nature films with minimal environmental impact.
Related: Check out our selections of climate change and plastic waste documentary films.
One of the most impactful ways to improve your nature experiences is to keep a nature journal. Nature is filled with many things you can discover with every time spent. Of course, you’ll find trees, animals, water, weather, and so much more to explore.
Getting out in nature can create a sense of belonging on this earth. Whereas it may not always provide a profound experience, sometimes it might. With so many activities involved, journaling can be a great way to keep memories of those activities alive and carry them into the future.
With a nature journal, you can build lasting memories, notice things on a deeper level and get newer perspectives on nature. You might want to consider the following when journaling on one of your outdoor adventures:
Consider answering these questions and express yourself as much as you can. Without a journal, beautiful nature experiences might become a distant memory. Keeping a journal can deepen your connection with nature and improve your mental health and overall well-being.
Related: Check out our tips on how to write a journal to get you started. We’ve also a list of some of the best eco-friendly journals so you can choose to write on and keep your journal with sustainability in mind.
Sharing your experiences with other people can induce a deeper level of connection with nature while allowing you to build stronger relationships. More like journaling, interacting with loved ones about your nature experiences helps keep the memory alive and helps you dive deeper into understanding nature.
You can share your latest discoveries with nature, the things that matter. and spark questions that lead to conversations.
Connecting with nature comes with tremendous benefits for human beings. Nature helps us escape the hustle of the modern lifestyle, and improves our mood, physical health, and overall well-being. It helps us connect with our roots and respect the life of other people.
With these techniques mentioned above, you can start today to cultivate a connection with nature. And with so much to enjoy and a variety of benefits, forming a habit of regularly connecting with nature stands every chance to bring a bit more than a smile to your moments of quiet and reflections amongst the trees.
Genevive R. Meredith, Donald A. Rakow, Erin R. B. Eldermire, Cecelia G. Madsen, Steven P. Shelley, Naomi A. Sachs. Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 2020; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02942
Strife S, Downey L. Childhood Development and Access to Nature: A New Direction for Environmental Inequality Research. Organ Environ. 2009;22(1):99-122. doi:10.1177/1086026609333340
Won Sop Shin (2007) The influence of forest view through a window on job satisfaction and job stress, Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 22:3, 248-253, DOI: 10.1080/02827580701262733
Bratman GN, Anderson CB, Berman MG, et al. Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Sci Adv. 2019;5(7):eaax0903. Published 2019 Jul 24. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax0903
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.