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  • Christie Johnson

32 Powerful Ways to Connect With Nature

Hiker finding ways to connect with nature by sitting on the edge of a cliff surrounded by trees enjoying the misty vista.
Hiking is a beautiful way to connect with nature.

“Are we at risk of losing ourselves?”

A question I often (rather anxiously) ponder when I think about humanity’s tenuous relationship with nature.

Urbanisation and digital advancement have reached dizzying heights over the last few decades.

The throes of modern life make it difficult to find moments to tune into the healing power of nature. After all, our sterile capital systems function best when we stay chained to our desks – right?!

It’s important to find ways to rebuild our connection with nature. Only then can we rebuild for a better future.

This article covers 32 incredible ways you can connect with nature.

Are you ready to discover nature’s life-change benefits? Let’s get started!

Why is it Important to Connect with Nature?

In recent years a wealth of scientific evidence all points to the same resounding conclusion: spending time in nature is good for our health.

People who connect with nature are happier, feel less stressed and are kinder to one another. Even hearing nature sounds like crickets chirping or rainfall can improve attention span and cognitive functioning.

Plus, studies show living near green spaces can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and asthma hospitalisations. According to Japanese researchers, the meditative act of forest bathing – or mindfully walking through the woods – can help boost your immune system. Trees release essential oils called phytoncides which encourage the natural production of cancer-fighting NK cells.

Walking in nature can also be incredibly eye-opening. Research by UC San Francisco encouraged a group of volunteers to experience moments of “awe” when taking 15-minute nature walks. After 8 weeks, volunteers reported feeling healthy emotions such as happiness, gratitude and compassion.

Connecting with nature in such a powerful and visceral way means people are more likely to show pro-nature behaviours. It can help you break free from an alienating consumer culture that is destroying the natural systems all life depends on.

So, how long do you need to spend in nature to reap these incredible mental and physical health benefits? Just 120 minutes per week according to one study.

How are Humans and Nature Connected?

In an increasingly urbanised world where 90% of people spend most of their time indoors, it’s easy to think human beings are separate from nature. Yet this couldn’t be further from reality!

According to naturalist Edward O. Wilson, the natural world is an essential part of our biology and identity. Most modern-day humans live in predominantly domesticated settings; however, our ancient predecessors evolved outside and drastically depended on their immediate natural environment for survival. This intrinsic biological need to connect with nature is still a fundamental part of our identity today. Wilson calls it the biophilic gene or a human being's “innate tendency to focus upon life and life-like forms and, in some instances, to affiliate with them emotionally”.

However, our instinctual relationship with nature is sadly breaking down. Since the 1950s, experts have observed a stark decline in opportunities for people to connect with nature. Urban expansion and an intensifying consumer culture are considered the main culprits for our dwindling nature connection.

“Nature deficit disorder” is becoming endemic among children with studies showing a child’s lack of connection with nature can contribute to ADHD, obesity, depression and lowered cognitive ability. Shocking statistics show children can name more Pokémon characters than wildlife species.

What’s more, nature-based words such as “acorn” and “conker” have been lost to 21st-century terms “attachment” and “chat room” in the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

With 68% of the population expected to live in urban areas by 2050, we must find meaningful ways to connect with nature.

Infographic outlining some simple ways to connect with nature.
Your ultimate guide to connect with nature.

32 Powerful Ways to Connect with Nature

1. Use Your Senses

Have you ever been out on a walk in nature but happened to be so consumed by thought you failed to enjoy it? I’ve been there!

Too often we aren’t consciously aware of our natural surroundings. Busy modern life rarely allows it.

So when you next spend time outside, find a sit spot and tune into your senses. Try to be as mindful as possible. You’ll be amazed at what you notice!

Here are a few sensory prompts to help you connect with nature:

  • What can you hear? From listening to the wind gently whispering through the trees to the calming sound of morning bird song, tuning into nature’s sweet symphony can be a profound experience.

  • What can you see? Whether you live in a seasonal climate or experience more temperate conditions, take a moment to notice nature’s ever-changing pallet. What flowers have grown in your garden recently? What dashes of colour can you see sprawling the skyline?

  • What can you feel? Make your nature experience a tactile one. Notice how it feels to touch the knobbly texture of bark. Can you feel the long grass tickling your legs?

  • What can you smell? Taking a moment to breathe deeply in nature is a great relaxation technique. If you’re in a wooded area, notice the fragrant scent of pine warming your nostrils. Surrender to the salty earthy goodness of seaweed and sand while taking a stroll along the coastline.

2. Bird Watching

Connect with nature in a meaningful way by trying a spot of bird watching! Bird watching has been proven to reap long-lasting mental health benefits.

Daily encounters with birds – and recording your findings – can help wildlife charities too. For example, the RSPB launches its Big Garden Birdwatch every year to help understand how local birdlife is faring.

3. Let Your Grass Grow

Contrary to popular opinion: stop mowing your lawn so often! Letting your plants and grass grow is ideal for wildlife. It not only creates localised safe havens, it’s also a great way to attract powerful pollinators.

4. Learn to Love Weeds

There’s no doubt weeds need to be managed. But we must stop believing that all species are bad news for our garden and the wider ecosystem.

Weeds are intrinsically stealthy meaning they grow where other plants can’t. As a result, they can provide more nectar and pollen than conventional plants and go-to wildflower mixes. Plus, the long roots of many perennial weeds can extract minerals and nutrients from deep in the earth, improving surface-level soil for crop growth.

So to connect with nature means working with it, rather than against it!

5. Go Foraging

Foraging is a wonderful outdoor activity and a powerful way to connect with nature. When foraging, minimalism is key so only take what you need. As certain types of species are poisonous, make sure you’re familiar with what you’re picking. Always avoid rare populations and seek permission before you forage as some sites are reserved for conservation and integral habitats for wildlife.

I recommend checking out the Woodland Trust’s comprehensive guide to foraging if you’re based in the United Kingdom.

6. Try Wild Swimming

Wild swimming is a phenomenal way to connect with nature. Some say it can be life-changing.

In a nutshell, wild swimming is going for a dip or a swim in the natural world. Lakes, rivers, rock pools, the sea… you name it!

From releasing those happy hormones to improving immune function, wild swimming has profound mental and physical health benefits.

So, are you ready to take the plunge?

Pro tip: If you’re choosing to go wild swimming in the colder months, make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Check out my handy wild swimming guide for all the tips and tricks.

7. Exercise Outside

I don’t know about you but I can’t think of anything worse than exercising in an overcrowded gym during peak time with oppressive lights and music blasting from all angles.

This is why I often exercise in nature. Because where you exercise is just as important as the exercise itself.

Exercising outside improves your mental health, boosts your vitamin D and helps with nature connectedness. Plus, if you’re a runner, cyclist or walker, exercising outside means taking on undulating terrain which is great for your cardiovascular fitness.

If nothing else, it beats staring at a blank wall while increasing the incline on the treadmill.

So, why not try a spot of outdoor yoga or plogging? You won’t regret it!

8. Keep a Nature Journal

Keeping a nature journal can increase your connection with the natural world in many ways. According to the Natural History Museum, biological recording has become extremely important for biodiversity and conservation – even if you’re a novice!

So the next time you’re walking in nature, bring a notebook and start to notice your surroundings.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Note any animals you see, how they are behaving and when and where you observe them

  • Note any changes in flowers blooming and leaves changing

  • Draw the wildlife you see, record their features and colours

9. Sit Under a Tree

Don’t underestimate the power of sitting under a tree!

Humanity’s sacred relationship with trees spans across centuries. Studies hypothesise ancient Homo sapiens evolved from trees to more savannah-like areas.

Spending time amongst the trees can improve your mood, lower stress and reduce fatigue.

10. Plant Wildflower Seeds

Wildflower meadows are extraordinary habitats. They are havens for wildlife but are rapidly decreasing each year. Since 1930, the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows.

Land development and changing farming methods have impacted the dwindling number of wildflowers. However, modern day garden preferences also have a huge part to play. Home gardens used to be wild and bursting with a variety of different vegetables, flowers and herbs for medicine. Nowadays people prefer clean lines and decorative plants which don’t necessarily help biodiversity.

The solution? If you have a garden, why not try creating your very own wildflower meadow? Environmental charity WWF has some great tips.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a lot of space to work with, you could buy some potted pollinator-friendly plants. Check out the Royal Horticultural Society’s guide to bee-friendly potted plants!

11. Switch Off

Is there such a thing as being too connected? I think so! The birth of smartphones and social media has – in many ways – added value to our lives. However, always being “on” and attempting to consume unrelenting buckets of information isn’t conducive to a healthy human experience. In fact, it could be changing our entire cognition.

So, it’s really important to find moments of peace in an overly connected world. Why not switch your phone off in the evenings or purposefully don’t take it with you when you go for a walk? Look at flora rather than Facebook!

12. Go Camping

There’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars in the great outdoors. Camping is a unique opportunity to switch off from the busy modern world and connect with yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you. You may even learn a new skill or two!

13. Walk in the Rain

It’s easy to grimace and groan when you’re caught in the rain. One particular summer’s day the heavens opened and I was without an umbrella. Instead of resisting, I put my face up to the sky and let go for a moment. It was an incredible feeling.

Walking in the rain can have a positive impact on your health. “Petrichor” – the sweet, earthy smell released when rain falls after a dry spell – is thought to contain healing properties. According to research by the University of Arizona, some desert plants emit fragrant volatile oils after a storm that help reduce anxiety, improve sleep and regulate hormones.

14. Eat Outside

Don’t you think food always tastes better outside? Fresh air, natural light and sounds combined with delicious food is a recipe for success. In fact, the University of Sunderland found that eating alfresco can reduce cortisol levels and inflammation in the body. High inflammation can cause cancer, type II diabetes and high blood pressure.

15. Explore Blue Spaces

Green spaces are monumental in helping us connect with nature. But what about blue spaces?

Blue spaces can include rivers, lakes, waterfalls and the sea. Spending time next to water is an incredibly calming and visceral experience. Research shows coastal environments can significantly reduce stress and increase happiness. A 2013 study found the seaside is one of the happiest places compared to urban areas.

A lake with beige fern-like plants in the foreground.
Connect with nature by visiting blue spaces.

How to Connect With Nature at Home

16. Try a Spot of Gardening

Did you know dirt can make you happy? Research by oncologist Dr Mary O’Brien injected lung cancer patients with M. vaccae, a microbe found in soil. She found patients not only exhibited fewer cancer symptoms but their overall happiness and quality of life improved too. Amazing right?!

Connecting with nature through gardening is not only remarkably good for your health, but it’s also a great way to increase your knowledge of local fauna and gain new skills like growing your own veggies.

17. Watch Nature Documentaries

Watching nature documentaries gives you a beautiful window into remote ecosystems you may not have the opportunity to experience. Connect with nature and perhaps develop a sense of gratitude as you learn about the complex lives of species and how they survive against all odds.

Planet Earth, Dynasties and David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet are just a few nature documentaries worth exploring.

18. Embrace Biophilic Interior Design

Biophilic design aims to create meaningful and nourishing connections between people and nature. In essence, biophilic architecture focuses on creating infrastructure that works harmoniously with the natural environment. Singapore is a prime example of how urban development can work in tandem with nature.

From an interior design perspective, biophilic design is all about incorporating natural elements into your home. Think eco-friendly materials, plants and lots of natural light!

19. Use Essential Oils

Sprinkling your body – or your home – with essential oils is a beautiful way to connect with nature.

As well as smelling amazing, some essential oils possess antimicrobial, antiviral, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. For example, peppermint, and eucalyptus (amongst others) are effective against 22 strains of bacteria. Lavender and rose oil help reduce stress levels.

20. Buy Seasonally

Being in tune with the seasons and knowing what’s growing at certain times of the year is essential to rebuilding our connection with nature.

Pro tip: Taking a trip to your local farmer’s market or grocery store is a simple way to know what’s in season. Unlike big supermarkets, local markets and grocers only sell what they can grow. You’ll notice the displays change depending on the season.

If you're looking to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, check out my guide to conscious shopping!

21. Get Creative

Find ways to creatively connect with nature. Take pictures of elements that inspire you or have a go at drawing what you see. What do you notice? What perspective can you bring?

Collating personal and meaningful images of your surroundings will garner a deep sense of appreciation for the natural world.

22. Create Havens for Wildlife

Turning your garden into a haven for wildlife is a great way to connect with nature. Hedgehog highways, shelters, bug hotels and bird boxes are just a few ways you can give nature a helping hand.

Plus, leaving bowls of water in your garden can be invaluable to wildlife during extreme weather conditions.

23. Walk Barefoot

Have you ever walked barefoot on the grass and instantly felt better? Well, there’s a reason for that!

Grounding, or “Earthing”, is the practice of connecting to the powerful electrons on the surface of the earth. It’s a largely under-researched field but a recent study found Earthing can help heal wounds, inflammation, immune responses and autoimmune diseases.

Woman's feet amidst long grass.
You can connect with nature by practising Earthing.

How to Connect With Nature in Winter

24. Set Up a Bird Feeder

If you have a garden, why not set up a bird feeder? You won’t be disappointed!

Bird feeders can attract a menagerie of woodland wildlife. It’s also a wonderful way to support animals during the winter months when food is scarce.

25. Invest in an Almanac

Do you find you’re often so busy wading through an endless to-do list that you forget to pay attention to nature’s rhythms?

Well, fear not! From tuning into moon cycles and constellations to noting the tides and seasonal changes, an Almanac can help you connect with your local environment.

If you’re based in the UK, I highly recommend reading Lia Leendertz’s The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2023.

26. Go Star Gazing

If you live in a seasonal climate where the nights draw in during the winter months, noticing a clear night sky could be your light in the darkness.

Regular star gazing has not only been proven to increase our connection with nature but it also encourages feelings of awe and generosity towards others.

Star gazing has been a significant cultural tradition for thousands of years. Yet with rapacious urbanisation and light pollution, we’re at risk of losing sight of the universe and its jaw-dropping constellations.

27. Read Nature Books

During the winter months, snuggling down with a good nature book is a beautiful way to connect with nature. The more we learn about nature, the better placed we are to protect it. Knowledge is power!

Here are my top nature book recommendations to get you started:

Someone reading a book while looking at mountain scenery.
Reading nature books can improve your connection with nature.

How to Connect With Nature in the City

28. Visit Your Local Park

Visiting your local park is a great way to connect with nature if you’re a city dweller.

With 68% of people living in urban areas by 2050, green spaces must become an integral part of city living. The World Health Organisation recommends everyone should live within 300m of a natural setting. Peppering luscious green space amidst towering concrete jungles creates huge benefits from improving air quality to reducing urban heat island effect.

Check out my guide to sustainable cities for incredible examples of how today’s metropolises are using green space to improve humanity’s relationship with nature.

29. Volunteer

What better way to connect with nature than to support a worthwhile environmental cause?

Whether it’s getting involved with community initiatives to conserve your local environment or signing petitions for national and international causes, there are numerous ways you can become a custodian of nature and protect our beautiful planet now and in the future.

30. Use Nature Apps

Isn’t it frustrating when you’re out walking and come across a plant or animal you can’t identify? Well, look no further than nature-based apps! They help you connect with nature and explore the fauna and flora around you.

Meditation apps also have a bank of nature landscapes and sounds you can tap into from the night sky right through to raindrops falling through trees.

Here are a few nature apps to get you started:

31. Watch the Sunrise and Sunset

Can you think of a better way to start and end your day?

Simply noticing the sunrise and sunset each day is a beautiful way to connect with nature. It’s also an opportunity to tap into your innate body clock – or circadian rhythm – which is integral to your health and wellbeing.

Being out of kilter with your circadian rhythm can negatively impact your mental health, disrupt your sleep patterns, and cause cardiovascular and immune problems.

32. Share Your Experience

Inspire others to connect with nature too! Share your experiences and what you’ve learned about our beautiful planet.

The modern human condition breeds an insular and isolating existence. As a result, humanity’s relationship with nature is becoming increasingly fragile.

If we can encourage our loved ones to reestablish those vital earthly connections and reap the nature benefits, we might just increase our chances of creating a sustainable future.

What are your favourite ways to connect with nature?

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A pinterest pin promoting 32 ways to connect with nature.

Author bio about Sustainability Writer Christie Johnson explaining her skills and experience.



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