Eight Ways to Connect with Nature in Daily Life
Published in Common Ground, April 2018 (see page 12)
Many of us love being in nature, and we know it’s profoundly good for our minds, bodies, and spirits. Yet most of us also lead very full lives in cities and almost entirely indoors, which makes it hard to get out to wild places as often as we’d like. So how can we get the direct contact with nature that is so essential for our well-being?
One key is to find small ways to notice and appreciate the presence of nature in our daily lives. Once we start looking, we may be surprised to discover just how much nature is part of our everyday environment, and how just a few moments of connecting with it can brighten our days and enrich our lives.
Here are some general tips for how to connect with nature wherever you are, followed by suggestions linked to specific times of the day and common activities.
1. Start where you are. Notice how the natural world is part of your everyday life, even in the midst of a city—in food, water, plants, animals, daily and seasonal cycles, your own body, and more. Simply bringing awareness to the presence of nature around you will strengthen your connection. Notice which aspects of nature you are instinctively drawn to, and find ways to say “yes” to them, even just for a few moments.
2. Go screen-free. Take breaks from electronic devices, especially when you’re outside. Turn off or silence your device, put it away, or (better yet) leave it behind so you can unhook the electronic leash and be more fully present. Enjoy observing and exploring the world around you, tuning into the presence of plants, birds, clouds, and other natural beauty.
3. Go for the green and blue. Look for opportunities to be near trees, plants, and water, and to notice and appreciate their company. Choose walking, biking, and driving routes with more green and blue. Eat some of your meals outside and/or near plants or water. Grow a garden or bring living plants into your home and work space. Gaze softly at green plants (indoors or out) for quick breaks, and venture out into green space for longer breaks.
4. Bring it outside. Begin with something you already do, bring it out to a park or beautiful outdoor setting, and enhance your enjoyment and the health benefits. A few great options: exercise, meals, reading, writing, yoga, meditation, and sharing time with friends or family. Or simply step outside during the day, feel the sun or breeze on your skin, take in the sights and sounds, and notice what draws your attention in a pleasing way.
5. Bring the outside in. Having nature images or natural treasures in your indoor environment or visualizing yourself in a peaceful outdoor setting will help you stay connected with nature and the special places you love. You’ll also receive some of the physical and mental health benefits of actually being in those places.
6. Move your body. Your own body is a natural wonder. Movement is essential to keep it happy and healthy and to support your natural intelligence and vitality. Exercising outside quickly multiplies the benefits and motivates you to keep moving—even just a brief walk makes a difference. Find opportunities to move your body regularly, daily if possible—especially ones that take you outdoors or bring you joy.
7. Make friends. Walk or bike around your neighborhood or sit quietly outside and meet your natural neighbors, observing them with friendly curiosity. You might be surprised to discover how many fascinating more-than-human neighbors you have. Notice if there are particular trees, animals, or natural places you feel drawn to. Find ways to communicate and tend your connection with them. They can become dear friends and powerful allies if you give them a chance.
8. Give thanks. Every day, we receive many beautiful and useful gifts from the natural world, mostly without noticing. Look for opportunities to appreciate these gifts more, even just for a few moments. You might pause to give thanks for a meal, a sunset, or a lovely flower. Consider keeping a gratitude journal or writing a thank-you letter to the Earth, or to a plant, animal, or place that is special to you. The more you feel and express your gratitude, the more it will nourish you.
When we take the opportunity to connect with nature wherever we are, we remind ourselves of how much goodness and beauty still exists in our troubled world, and we bring more peace, joy, and healing into our busy lives. It’s a remarkably important key to creating a more healthy and sustainable future.
Kai Siedenburg is a mindful nature connection guide who loves to inspire people to connect with the earth in simple ways in daily life, to cultivate deeper bonds with wild places, and to access nature-based healing. This essay is adapted from the new book Poems of Earth and Spirit: 70 Poems and 40 Practices to Deepen Your Connection with Nature. PoemsofEarthandSpirit.com or OurNatureConnection.com.
[Note: Poems of Earth and Spirit includes two additional tips for daily life, as well as ten tips for deepening your connection when you’re in nature.]