Introduction to Nature Connection
What is Online Nature Connection?
Nature connection online combines elements of forest bathing and mindfulness with virtual connection. It allows us to connect with nature and with other people even when we are unable to venture far from home.
Surely online nature connection is nothing like as good as in person?
Scientific research has shown benefits from nature connection including physiological relaxation and an improved ability to regulate emotions. These effects have been noted even when the nature connection was with a picture of flowers or from touching a piece of wood. So online nature connection can bring benefits without having to venture outdoors! It is possibly a bit like a foot bath compared with a full forest bathing experience. However, compared with being in nature in a less conscious way, it can be a really full and enriching experience.
How is nature connection different from “visiting” nature?
Our experiences in nature tend to be a lot like a visit to a museum – we see an object, label it, get a whole lot of factual information about it (either at the time from a field guide, our memories or from local signage occasionally or we look it up afterwards). There is generally also a lot of taking pictures. These things are all great and have a benefit to us, but they tend to miss a really key part of nature experience. This key part is what I would term “nature connection.”
I have found nature connection to be a really accessible route to mindfulness, especially for people who tend to find sitting on a cushion for any length of time difficult. You can become mindful without even realising that you are doing it.
A nature connection incorporates several possible elements, however it will almost always include the following:
- noticing your surroundings using your senses;
- feeling the experience in your own being (perhaps changes in your body sensations and emotions);
- either talking about the experience with another person or group, journaling or reflecting on the experience in some way.
The idea is to connect with the outer world, with our own inner world and possibly with other people. There is some lovely information about what constitutes nature connection at https://findingnature.org.uk/ In particular, the site talks about the five key ways we connect with nature –
- through our senses;
- through beauty (e.g. photography, painting);
- through meaning (e.g. natural navigation and natural signs);
- through compassion (e.g. conservation projects, gardening); and
- through emotion (the reflection and sharing mentioned above).
Why do Nature Connection?
There are lots of reported benefits of nature, but actually the truth is that it is so integral to our well-being and survival – it is not a case of it being nice to see the odd bit of wildlife every so often, but rather that we are likely to not thrive at all if we cut it out of our lives, intentionally or otherwise.
Research has shown numerous health benefits such as reduction of stress, lowering of blood pressure, boosting of the immune system, increased happiness and easing of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. (For more on this, I strongly recommend reading The Nature Fix by Florence Williams).
In addition, time in nature is widely believed to increase creativity and problem solving. The reason behind this is thought to be because it takes us out of the executive (heavy analytical processing) part of our brains and into the default mode, thus giving the overworked parts of our minds a much-needed rest.
There are other benefits too, such as connecting with yourself. It may sound like a strange thing, but we very often live entirely in our heads and can become completely out of touch with the fact that we are more than a brain with a pair of eyes.
As well as the personal benefits, there is a benefit to the natural environment. In a nutshell, when we realise that we are a part of nature, we are much more likely to want to protect it.
What to expect
For the experiences I guide, I would tend to start with an activity to quickly introduce everyone and then to help us to arrive where we are. That may sound like a very odd concept, but it can be really quite tricky to switch out of being in that problem-solving, analysing, busy thinking mode. Don’t worry about this – we are not trying to achieve any kind of special state, we are just hoping to set an intention and open the opportunity for your mind to have a rest. There’s no right or wrong state of mind for nature connection.
Then it’s really about the experience of nature – no two experiences are the same, but I guide activities to incorporate some of the elements above. Above all, it is experiential, so no amount of reading about it equates to actually doing it. It really is a case of try it and see!
What you will need
You will need:
- an internet connection and to be able to see and hear my video (if you have any barriers to this – for example sensory impairment – please get in touch so we can make adaptations to make it accessible to you);
- an outdoors space or, if indoors, to be near a window ideally;
- if indoors, you may need a pot plant or some herbs or another “friend” from nature such as a pine cone;
- possibly space to walk or move about;
- a bit of time for yourself, free from interruptions.
I trained to be a Mindfulness Teacher with Shamash Alidina and a Natural Mindfulness Guide with Ian Banyard. Both their sites have lots of great information about mindfulness and natural mindfulness and how to train to guide others yourself if you are interested.
Check out our Events page for upcoming Nature Connection activities