We hear a lot these days about how to rewild nature – a form of conservation and ecological restoration that has significant potential to increase biodiversity through letting things take their natural course, reintroducing native species and not having too much human interference. But is it also possible to rewild ourselves? This could mean doing things in a natural way, similar to how our ancestors might have done, as previously humans would have been much more in touch with nature and its rhythms and cycles than we are in today’s society. The following suggestions can be a way to help rekindle and rediscover our connection to nature as a way to connect to ourselves.
1. Get out into nature. Probably one of the most obvious but also most effective ways to feel more connected with nature is to spend time in it. This can also help us to feel more connected with ourselves as well, as when we spend time in nature we are not distracted by modern day devices such as computers and televisions. There are different places in nature that you may be more drawn to such as woodlands, a park, rivers, your garden, the ocean or on top of a hill so decide where you feel like you will be most happy. And there are also different ways that you can ‘be’ in nature too such as walking, sitting on a bench, getting your hands muddy and planting things in your garden, listening to the birds outside your window, dipping your feet in a cool stream, climbing a tree or lying in a field. This is a good way to try and listen to what your body feels like doing.
2. Move your body and use your senses. Leading on from the previous tip, engaging all your senses is a really helpful way to connect with nature and also be in the present moment feeling the different sensations. So if you had decided to go for a walk in a woodland you could take a moment to listen to any noises you could hear – birdsong, leaves crunching, the wind in the trees; and look at things in detail – the shape of branches, looking up to the tree canopy to see glimpses of the sky above, or you might spot a beautiful flower like this Snakeshead Fritillary with amazing snakeskin markings. You could feel the different textures of things – the bark of trees, the smoothness of a pebble or the roughness of a pinecone; you could smell the scents of nature – the sweet blossom, the musty earth, or fragrant pine trees; and you could maybe even find something to taste too – there are lots of edible wild plants if you know what to look for (see number 4!).
3. Learn about local plants and wildlife. Learning how to identify local flora and fauna is a rewarding journey that helps us feel more connected to our local ecosystems. Both animals and plants are fascinating and interesting to learn more about and it can feel really rewarding remembering the name of a tree or flower. Learning about them and why they behave the way they do also gives us an opportunity to better understand how closely everything in nature is connected and how we are connected to them. There are lots of different identification keys available including free resources online or in apps such as Seek.
4. Grow your own food or forage wild plants. Growing your own food or carefully taking some from nature can feel incredibly satisfying and also tastes delicious and is often very nutritious. Even if you don’t have a garden you can still grow things on windowsills such as herbs, chillies or pea shoots. Similar to gardening, foraging is a wonderful way to nourish your body with nature. When you learn how to identify safe* wild plants to eat such as wild garlic, elderflower, blackberries or nettles then suddenly you can see abundance everywhere you go. Like being able to identify different plants in the first place, then being able to eat them as well can take the satisfaction level even higher. This helps you to link back to practices that our ancestors have been doing for thousands of years.
*The items listed here are quite easy to recognise but always make sure you are confident with your ID skills, or go with someone who is, before eating something. Also only take the amount that you need and make sure to leave some for nature and for other people.
5. Celebrate the weather and the seasons. There is a famous quote that says ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’ which is often true because whilst it can be hard to psyche yourself up if it’s cold and wet and miserable outside, 9 times out of 10 people are glad that they have got outside. And wearing suitable clothing definitely helps increase the chances of happiness, so find a good waterproof or umbrella and some walking boots or wellies. It’s interesting to notice how things change through the seasons but in a cyclical way that you know will be repeated every year, even though things still come as a surprise, like it still being so light late at night in summer or how amazing it is seeing snowdrops and daffodils first appear after winter. As well as the change in seasons there are also the summer and winter solstice and the spring and autumn equinox which are always a good reminder to pause and notice the changes that come with the different times of year and embrace them.
6. Create a nature journal and collect nature. This can be a really good way to keep track of all the things you have noticed in nature and how they have made you feel. It can be a record of the things that have been important to you when you’ve been in nature, it could include drawings or things that you stick in like feathers or petals. Doing this helps increase awareness of nature’s pattern, signs, and cycles year after year. It doesn’t have to be a perfect work of art or written poetically as so much of the benefit is in just doing the activity. You could also collect some small tokens of nature to bring into your home as a reminder, it could be an interesting shaped twig, a patterned sea shell or a smooth conker. This can give you reminders of your time in nature and help you to connect with it even when you can’t physically be in it.
Hopefully some of these tips can help you to connect with nature in a way that also helps connect to yourself. Nature can be an incredibly powerful tool in helping boost our mental wellbeing and these practices should help to encourage your brain to notice things and see the positivity and life in them that we can then capture for ourselves too!
This blog was written by Ecotherapy tutor Freya Lovett and all of the photos were taken by Freya on her nature walks (apart from the Elderflower photo, credit given to photographer Corina Rainer via Unsplash). Find out more about Ecotherapy here.