Welcome to the 7 Days to Heal our Relationship with Nature course. It is intended for you to be able to follow the course at your own pace. In principle you could complete the course in seven days or less. However, in practice you might like to take your time. There is an introductory video for today here.
To get the most out of it, you are invited to write your answers to the questions in a journal and to jot down some reflections on the activities. (As a side note, I have written two nature connection journals with prompts and activities – not associated with this course, but they could be used for this purpose. All proceeds from the journals go to the Wildlife Trusts, but I should stress than any notebook or paper and pen will be absolutely fine).
A large part of this course is in the community. Much of the learning is collective and reflective. So in sharing in the Facebook group and in reading and responding to other’s shares you will get much more than is offered on this website.
I am not an expert. I am sharing here my personal experiences and the insights I have been given through connecting with nature. However, my journey will be different from yours and my interpretation and perspective may well differ. I hope you can see past any differences and simply use them as a prompt for your own reflection. If something does not resonate for you, consider it and what your own perspective is. There are no right or wrong answers.
What is Nature?
A good place to start is to consider what we might mean by “nature.” You might like to jot a few words (or even pictures) down in a journal that sum up what nature is to you.
The Collins dictionary gives the following definition:
“Nature is all the animals, plants, and other things in the world that are not made by people, and all the events and processes that are not caused by people.”
The Cambridge dictionary defines nature as:
“all the animals, plants, rocks, etc. in the world and all the features, forces, and processes that happen or exist independently of people, such as the weather, the sea, mountains, the production of young animals or plants, and growth”
Lexico gives the definition as:
“The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.”
“The physical force regarded as causing and regulating the phenomena of the world.”
What do you think of these definitions? Do they all say the same thing to you or do some parts resonate more than others?
Another question to explore here is where you think of nature as being? Inside your home, your garden, your local park, the local streets, mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans? What is your relationship with nature like in each of these places?
What do you like about nature?
Now we have some ideas about what nature might be, what positive qualities do you attribute to nature? This might be about experiences and encounters that you have in nature that bring you happiness, or things you are grateful for. How does nature make you feel or what positive wellbeing effects do you notice?
What do you dislike about nature?
This may be obvious to you but, if not, then perhaps think in terms of what things you tend to avoid – maybe certain conditions or animals or plants that you would steer clear of. Do you notice any negative emotions or negative wellbeing effects ? It may not be as clear cut as like/dislike and that is absolutely fine. This is just about building a picture of your current beliefs and feelings.
There are really no right or wrong answers to the questions above. This is about your relationship with nature. I would like to share with you some of my own thoughts and some of the different perspectives that I have encountered so far.
To me, nature is everything that is not made by people, but it does include human beings. I believe that we are also nature. I believe that it is something that is around and within us always and I relate strongly to the definition that it is the “force that is responsible for physical life.”
Crucially, we do not need to go somewhere special to connect with nature. There is scientific evidence from a number of sources, including the University of Derby, to support this view. We do seem to be more mindful of nature in settings that fill us with a sense of awe and wonder (mountains, the ocean etc.) However, the good news is that, if we are mindful, even the tiniest of encounters with, say, moss on a wall in the city or listening to birdsong can have positive benefits and offer meaningful connection.
Hopefully you found it easy to think of things that you find pleasant in nature. However, not everyone does. I am really hoping that everyone at the end of the course will have at least started to build a list of pleasant experiences and favourite things. For me, birds and birdsong feature high up my list, as do trees and water. I find nature calming and nurturing. Spending time connecting with nature hits my reset button, grounding me and clearing away the stresses and strains of daily life.
Things people often consider unpleasant might include weather conditions, insects and spiders or dirt. There may be things that we are afraid of or that we just consider uncomfortable and tend to avoid. However, these are things others may like. Certainly many children enjoy mud and rain and playing with creepy crawlies, so we are possibly conditioned to avoid them rather than being born with a particular aversion.
Activity 1: Gratitude Practice (Foundation Stone 1)
This is an invitation to make a note each day of some things that you appreciate in nature – you might set yourself a target of 1, 3 or 5 things or you could just leave it open.
Gratitude is one of the foundation stones of healing our relationship with nature. It is the simplest way of giving back and of noticing and appreciating the many gifts we are given. It is also a gift we give ourselves – if our gratitude is truly heartfelt, we are also bathed in the same amazing warmth that we are bestowing on another. Try it out and you will see what I mean! I have made a short audio practice here.
Activity 2: Getting Started (Foundation Stone 2: Connection)
This activity is just about spending a small amount of time each day alone in nature with the sole aim of using your senses to connect with nature. I strongly recommend setting out to spend just 1 or 2 minutes. If you find you want to spend more, that is fantastic, but it is more important to commit to 1 or 2 mindful minutes on a daily basis.
Being mindful simply means paying conscious attention. In this case, we are paying conscious attention to our senses – what can you hear, what can you smell, what do you feel (maybe the air on your skin or perhaps feeling textures etc? You may well notice what you see as well but, as our sight tends to be our dominant sense, I would suggest bringing this in at the end so you get to practice using the other senses.
You can do this activity indoors if it is hard to get outdoors, either from a window or you could listen to recordings. However, it is well worth getting outside for a bit if you can. I have made a short audio guided practice here.
Please do share your experiences in the Facebook group – it is such a valuable part of the course to share, read and comment on others’ reflections or questions.
There are a number of practices that use your senses in the 30 day nature connection challenge (with videos on the YouTube channel) so do take a look and try some out!
If you enjoyed today’s journey, please do consider making a donation to Friends of the Earth here
Day 2 is here