Being in nature is one way that I find helps keep me centered and connected. I feel more connected to myself, as well as to the world – in a way that is soothing rather than overwhelming or draining. On especially busy days, just stepping outside for a quick couple of minutes to breathe in some fresh air is so rejuvenating. The intentional pause, and the few minutes to take in the good, are surprisingly powerful. There are emotional and physical benefits of being in nature, and they aren’t just anecdotal. In a recent study, researchers found that being outside and among nature reduced feelings of isolation, promoted a feeling of calm, and lifted people’s mood. Not only does it help your individual mood, but those effects spread to the wider community even helping to reduce aggression and crime. In a 2015 study, it was found that more exposure to nature resulted in more community cohesion and substantially lower crime rates. There is a growing body of research that points to similar findings. In this review, several research consensus statements were found. The researchers reviewed the research and found that evidence demonstrates experiencing nature is associated with improved psychological well-being. They include both small, single occasions in nature, as well as cumulative time. So, even the little bits of nature can add up to more happiness, sense of meaning and purpose in life, improved manageability of life tasks, and improved memory and attention. Studies have even showed nature experience to improve children’s school performance as well as imagination and creativity. Nature experience is also associated with improved sleep and reductions in stress.
Because of all the emotional and physical benefits of being in nature, it makes sense to intentionally spend as much time as we can in nature. This can be infusing your indoor environment with more outdoors. Just opening your windows, curtains, and doors can bring the outside in and help improve your mood. I’ve been experimenting with more ways to bring nature into my own daily routine. Some days I can spend bigger chunks of my day outside, and sometimes it’s in little bits. The little bits add up.
How to bring Nature into our daily routines
Studies have shown that exercising outdoors inspires us and keeps us motivated to keep going. Outdoor yoga can be especially grounding. The research shows that even being in the presence of the color green while exercising can positively affect your mood. So even if the weather or your space doesn’t permit it, just opening the blinds or windows while you exercise to bring in some green can be beneficial.
Bring elements of nature into your home
Consider incorporating items made from wood, stone, driftwood, pebbles or other textures found in nature. Bringing plants into your home is a great way to connect to nature and reduce your stress and anxiety. Plus, not only do the negative ions that plants give off boost your mood, they also can be helpful in replacing the ions our electronics like computers and TV suck out of the air. And plants help purify the air by reducing the amount of airborne pollutants.
Nature is full of amazing plant aromas. These aromas are not only pleasant to smell, making our environment enjoyable to the nose, they are also full of chemicals that can enhance our mood, immune system, and clarify our thinking. Here’s a list of 8 essential oils to experiment with and notice which are your favorites: lavender, rose, vetiver, ylang ylang, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, and chamomile. These are some of my favorites due to the studies that show they can be beneficial for anxiety and help calm your nervous system.
Slow down and be present
Perhaps the most important thing to try when you want to connect with nature is practicing slowing down and being truly present with the natural world. We typically live our life at such a fast pace it becomes difficult to appreciate the magnificence all around us. It requires an intention to notice. I like to use the mindful break technique of noticing what's happening. What colors, shapes, textures, or patterns do you see? Do you notice anything new? Count how many colors you can see. Another way is to engage all the senses. Find something you can see. Find something you can smell. Find something you can taste. Find something you can hear. Find something you feel or touch. These mindful techniques really help me to be in the moment, and truly absorb the benefits of being outside.
Notice how nature affects you
Try this little nature exercise:
Take a walk and find a place to sit down, rest and pause from doing as best you can. Allow your eyes to take in everything they see. Next, close your eyes and listen to the sounds. Sense your belonging to nature. Become aware of how you feel being in nature. Experience your own quiet peace and strength and begin to sense the inner you that is the true you. Stay as long as you wish, and as you leave say thank you for your experience of connecting to nature.
What do you notice after spending some time nature? What are your favorite ways to connect with nature?