Recharge and reconnect through nature

Recharge and reconnect through nature

Connecting with nature is now well established as a catalyst for wellbeing. If you think back to our hunter gatherer roots it makes total sense. We have evolved to connect with nature and yet modern society seems to strive to drive us apart. More and more of us live in cities, have busy jobs and demanding families and it can be hard to create that time to connect.

Connecting with nature is exactly what we need in order to regulate our nervous system in times of stress or perceived threat. Here are some simple tips for finding that connection every day, to help you to regulate your nervous system from fight flight back to rest and restore. This in turn enables you to be more productive both at home and at work.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.”

Sylvia Plath

9 tips for everyday nature connection

1 Grab a Cuppa and Ponder a Pattern

Nature contains simple repeating patterns, called fractals that repeat over and over and increase in complexity (the nautilus shell, a leaf, dandelions, ice crystals, broccoli buds, a pinecone, clouds). Pondering these patterns for even a few moments helps to regulate your nervous system. Have a look and see what fractal patterns you can find in your environment. Photos work just as well (a couple below) but if you can find the real thing or go outside to find them even better.

recharge and reconnect
recharge and reconnect
recharge and reconnect
2. Open a window

Get some fresh air circulating around your home office to re-oxygenate the air and blow away the cobwebs (and the pathogens)! During the pandemic this is even more important as it helps to ventilate the room if any potential sources of Covid are present. Working in a room without fresh air can cause drowsiness and reduce concentration

3. Drink some water

You are 65% water and your brain is 80% water. Ensuring that you retain adequate supplies of this key element in your body is the best form of nature connecting to keep you alert and healthy. 

4. Evoke Blue Mind

Get out and walk near your closest body of wild water. Spending time in on and near water also helps to regulate your nervous system.  If you don’t have a lake, river, beach or fountain near you then enjoy a relaxing soak in the bath or a hot shower for relaxation and restoration. Studies in Exeter University have found that watching images of water can also help us to relax. This is especially beneficial if it contains biodiversity. Swich your screen saver to an underwater image or grab those holiday snaps by the beach and place them around your works space.

5. Cold Water Shower.

Have a cold shower to stimulate your vagus nerve (an important part of the parasympathetic nervous system which connects the brain, heart, liver, and gut). When your vagus nerve isnt functioning properly you have ‘low vegal tone’ – a well known cause of stress. Stimulating the vagus nerve can increase vagal tone, and thus have a significant positive effect on the functioning of your body. Meditating, laughing and singing also increase vegal tone.

6. Spend your lunch in Green

Get outside in your lunch break and find some greenery. A local park if you cant access countryside. Take the time in that green space to listen to the birds, notice what other wildlife is around, feel the wind on your face. Try to evoke all your senses, notice what you can see, hear, feel. taste and smell. Take a moment to take a mindful breath or ten. If its not too muddy (it is February after all!) why not even take off your shoes and socks and feel the ground beneath your feet

7. Sound scape

Step outside your front door and listen. Close your eyes and see what natural sounds you can hear. Even in the city you are likely to be able to access bird song if you really concentrate. Maybe there’s the sound of water close by? Spend time next to water, a pond, a fountain – the sound of water decreases the stress hormone cortisol.  Turning on the tap at home or downloading some water soundscapes from the internet work just as well.

See how far away you can hear. When you listen deeply you cant think at the same time so it helps to get you out of your head. It is really very difficult to feel stress and listen in this way at the same time. 

8. Mindful Phototography challenge

I was introduced to these a few years ago on a photography course I did with Rewilding expert and photographer Natasha Lithgoe. The rules are simple:

  • choose a start point
  • find something nature created (hint – everything comes from nature in one way or another!)
  • mindfully take a photo of it – notice the details that you wouldn’t normally notice, like the weeds trying to reclaim the cracks in the pavement.
  • take 20 steps and stop
  • without taking another step, find something else to take a photo of.
  • repeat until you have 10 photos.

The idea is to find beauty anywhere small or large and to notice what you don’t usually notice. To consider your environment, create photo art from it and have fun.

If you dont want to do the photo challenge just get out and walk! Being in nature decreases your blood pressure and lowers the stress hormone cortisol which in turn lowers anxiety and depression. Get out into a park, your garden if you are lucky enough to have one, or the woods.  Whichever bit of local wild space you are able to enjoy.  If none is accessible at this time then simply notice the patterns of nature’s clouds, but also look where you are going!

9. Find Awe

Being in nature creates a feeling of awe in us especially when we look at the waves of the ocean, grand lakes or the hills, peaks and mountains around us.  The wonders of the natural world can truly humble us.  MRI scans have shown that when we experience awe we release dopamine, which lifts our mood and has a positive impact on our mental health.  I feel so lucky to have the sunsets over the sea to bring me awe every day but awe ranges from the mundane to the extraordinary!  What awe can you find around you?

Being in nature helps you to gain a fresh perspective and enables you to find answers that may not have been obvious when in the midst of daily life. I work with client’s both online and in nature. I use the blue space on my doorstep to help clients to reconnect with their playful side and to have conversations about how they are showing up in the world. We are part of the ecosystem we live in and this is why nature connection is vital for sustainability work.

As in the words of Jacques Cousteau We only protect what we love, we only lovewhat we understand, and we only understand what we are taught.” Nature teaches us everything we need to know, as long as we pause long enough to hear the advice.