Twelve Ways to Connect with Nature Wherever You Are
Published in Common Ground, April 2014
“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”
Do you love being in nature, but find it hard to get out as often as you’d like? Join the club! These days, most of us lead very full lives in cities, spending much of our time indoors and in front of screens. Yet that doesn’t have to keep us from enjoying an intimate and nourishing connection with the natural world. You might be surprised to discover just how much nature is already part of your daily life. Simply bringing more awareness to its presence can enrich your life and enhance your health.
A growing body of research confirms what we know instinctively: nature connection is profoundly good for us. Studies document an impressive array of health benefits (including reduced stress, anxiety, and depression) and links to improved creativity and performance. And this is not just about our own well-being—it also impacts how we treat others and the Earth. It is the original natural medicine for body, mind, and spirit, so powerful that even viewing images of nature or scenes through a window has measurable benefits.
Most of us think of nature as existing in relatively pristine places like redwood forests or rugged mountain peaks. Yes, wild places are much more natural than the built environment, and it is inspiring and rejuvenating to spend time in them. However, if we see nature as primarily located somewhere else, we can overlook countless opportunities to engage right in our own backyards.
Here are a few ideas for how to connect with nature wherever you are as a way to bring more moments of peace, joy, and balance into daily life. These suggestions are grounded in practical experience and informed by research findings.
- Start where you are. Notice how nature is already part of your everyday life, in food, water, trees, animals, your own body, seasonal cycles, and more… and what you feel instinctively drawn to.
- Disconnect to connect. Take breaks from electronic devices, including when you’re outside. Engage your senses, open your awareness, and discover what’s inside you and around you.
- Start seeing green. Tune into the trees and plants in your surroundings as you walk or travel around, choosing routes with more vegetation when you can. Gaze softly at green plants (indoors or out) for quick breaks, and go into green space for longer breaks.
- Bring it outside. Begin with something you already love to do, add a beautiful outdoor setting (ideally with green plants and/or water), and see what happens. A few great options: exercise, meals, yoga, Qi Gong, meditation, writing, and sharing time with friends or family. Or simply step outside during the day and tune into your environment.
- Meet your neighbors. Walk or bike around your neighborhood or sit quietly outside and get to know the plants and animals that live near you. Be curious about them and open to developing a personal connection.
- Garden. Gardening is a great way to engage directly with nature that yields abundant benefits, including fresh food, beautification, and improved health.
- Give it a rest. All living things need rest. Take actual breaks so that you can return to your tasks with renewed energy and focus. Step away from your work or devices, look out the window or go outside, and walk or move your body. Focus softly on something natural or beautiful to restore your attention.
- Be mindful. Allow the natural world to help you be more fully and joyfully present in the moment. Let a beautiful flower, tree, or birdsong invite you to pause, breathe, and simply enjoy being. Nature is a gentle yet powerful ally for cultivating mindfulness.
- Touch the Earth… and let the Earth touch you. Physical contact affirms and strengthens your bond with nature, and balances your body’s electromagnetic energy by suffusing it with negative ions (which reduce the impact of free radicals). Direct contact with soil, stone, and water all have this effect.
- Bring the outside in. Having images of nature or natural objects in your indoor environment or visualizing yourself in a peaceful outdoor setting can bring you some of the benefits of actually being there.
- Give thanks. Pause to feel and express gratitude for some of the gifts you receive from nature. You may want to integrate this with a daily activity like dinner or bedtime, or with your spiritual practice if you have one.
- Give back. We all make many choices that impact the Earth every day. You can give back through reducing consumption, traveling less, choosing greener options, or donating time or money. Linking small daily actions with love for the Earth or broader values makes them more meaningful.
The keys to a deeper relationship with the natural world are simple, but not always easy: slow down, pay attention, be present, give thanks.
The trees along the sidewalk and the bird singing outside our window speak to us very differently than an old-growth forest or a herd of elk might, but they do speak to us, sometimes powerfully. They speak of the beauty, wonder, and wisdom that are still abundant in the world despite all its brokenness. They remind us that we are never alone, and invite us to weave a web of caring and respectful relations with each other and all beings.
Kai Siedenburg is a nature connection guide and writer based in Santa Cruz, CA. Her work explores the fertile intersection of nature connection, mindfulness, and wellness. She leads experiential nature-based sessions for groups and offers nature connection coaching to individuals: firstname.lastname@example.org