Getting close to nature is good for our mental and physical health[i]. There are so many ways we can find calm and happiness by getting involved with the natural world around us.
Treasures by the Sea
I have always loved searching beaches for interesting stones and fossils. As a little girl I liked to explore rock pools, looking for starfish and sea anemones. If I am stressed or out of sorts, a stroll by the sea hunting for sharks’ teeth and holey stones always makes me feel better. By focusing on the natural world around me I loosen my inner grip on my worries.
Beachcombing is just one way to engage with nature. There are plenty of other opportunities to get involved with the great outdoors. Some of these can help you make new friends, get active and support your local community. All of them can relieve anxiety or depression and help you feel better.
Growing or Picking Food
Eating something you have grown or harvested yourself is incredibly satisfying. Some people are lucky enough to have gardens or allotments and the time to tend them. But you don’t need a lot of space to grow something you can eat. Potatoes in a barrel, strawberries in a hanging basket or cress on the windowsill are all fun to try. There are lots of great books and websites which can help you get started[ii].
August is a good time to pick blackberries from the hedgerows. Cook them up with some apples to make a tasty fruit compote or crumble. You may also be able to find mushrooms in the fields, but be careful you know that what you are picking is safe to eat. Check with an expert if you are not sure.
Many local farms offer the chance to pick your own fruit throughout the summer. Plums are in season now. Later in the year I like to pick wild sloes and make my own sloe gin in time for Christmas. For this it is best to wait until after the first frosts when the fruit is tart and full of flavour. Food you have grown or gathered yourself tastes amazing.
As well as walking, there are plenty of ways to exercise outdoors and enjoy the sense of connection to nature. Whether you prefer running on country trails, paddleboarding, yoga in a park or flying a kite with the family, you will get all the benefits of being outdoors. You may make new friends. You will definitely come home with a real boost to your self-esteem.
The excellent Parkrun organisation is a wonderful way to begin exercising regularly in your local area with like-minded people. You don’t need to be able to run – walking is fine too. Sadly Parkrun is currently suspended due to Covid 19, but there are plans for these accessible events to re-start soon. Look out for news on their website[iii].
Animals – Pets and Wildlife
Many people feel at their most relaxed around animals. If you don’t have a pet of your own, you could offer to help walk or care for somebody else’s. They may be grateful for your input. There is even an organisation, Borrow my Doggy, devoted to helping dog lovers connect with local dog owners for walks, weekends and holidays[iv].
If you enjoy wildlife you could go for a walk in a local park or woodland, looking out for birds, squirrels and deer. You might like to set up bird feeders in your garden and learn about the different species which come to visit. The RSPB website is a great place to start[v]. You could also visit a nature reserve run by the RSPB or your local Wildlife charity. These places are often on the lookout for volunteers, so if you have some spare time you could get involved and help protect local wildlife[vi].
Caring for the Natural World
Caring for your environment is calming and rewarding. It helps us feel more connected to nature. We can all help out by taking part in the “two minute” movement which encourages everyone to spend two minutes picking up litter when we visit a beach or outdoor space[vii]. If you have more time you could get involved in a local litter pick, or help out with conservation projects in your community.
Even big cities have city farms, community gardens and local nature reserves. These are fantastic resources for helping people get close to nature. The Social Farms and Gardens website can help you find green spaces near you[viii]. There may be opportunities to volunteer, or simply to visit and enjoy.
Stars and the Sky
The night sky is a fascinating way to lose your worries in the natural world. Watching the stars will get you outdoors and encourage you to learn something new. You don’t need an expensive telescope to get started. A pair of binoculars or the naked eye is enough to make some great discoveries. All you need is a simple book or two and a clear night. There is plenty of information online about how to get started, and you may be able to find a helpful astronomy club near you. It could be the gateway to a fascinating new hobby[ix].
Eating and Sleeping Outdoors
Picnics and camping are wonderful ways to get close to nature. You can even put up a tent in your back garden, or find a campsite beside a river or in a forest. It is hard to beat the simple pleasure of waking up surrounded by nature, breathing the fresh air and hearing the birds sing. If it rains you can still enjoy the soothing sounds of rain on a tent roof and the cosy feeling of being snuggled up inside. Hopefully the sun will come out again before you need to pack up and go home!
Today’s Calming Practice – Get Close to Nature
Whatever the weather, see if you can find some way today to get close to nature. I have suggested some ways of engaging with the natural world, but you may think of others too. Perhaps you love gardening or rambling. Maybe you like swimming in the sea. Even something as simple as watching the birds outside your window or tending and watering your houseplants can help you feel calm and connected. Getting close to nature calms our minds and helps us relate better to ourselves and others. It can help you feel good today.
Thanks for reading this blog post. I am writing a series of 31 blogs every day this August. I plan to publish them later in the year as a book entitled, ‘Finding Your Calm Space – 31 Ways to Find Calm in a Crazy World’.
I’m Karen. I am a Yoga teacher, Reflexologist and busy mum of seven. I live with my family in Billericay, Essex, UK. In the past I have worked as a Midwife, Health Visitor, Baby Signing teacher and Tax Inspector. I love getting outdoors, swimming in the sea, walking and writing. Helping people relax is one of the things I do best.
You can learn more about my Yoga classes and Reflexology at my website www.thecalmspace.co.uk
Here is a useful article on the benefits of getting out into the natural world: