10 Easy Ways to Connect with Nature for Wellbeing
Jen Wood, our Wellbeing expert at Restoration Yard, explores 10 simple ways to connect with nature for our wellbeing
"I am in awe of anyone who can swim outdoors in winter. I really really want to, but every time I’ve tried it in the summer I’ve felt wiped out for the rest of the day. I know there are other ways to enjoy our stunning natural heritage. Usually I am great at getting out there. However this year has already felt different. Earlier in 2020, I embraced fitness and outdoor exercise and felt as good as I could during a national lockdown. Then the festive season arrived although not as we expected it. This resulted in some self-soothing with food. So I decided to set an intention for 2021 to learn to love and embrace nature more fully and see how it impacted my wellbeing."
Here are my 10 wellbeing-boosting tips for learning to love nature. Enjoy.
1. Get outside first thing in the morning, especially if it’s sunny.
According to my nutritionist, if we can get sunlight on our skin, it helps us generate Vitamin D. I take supplements, because at this time of year in Scotland we have a tendency to be deficient in Vitamin D. Natural sunlight will give us an energy boost and improves our immunity.
2. Make friends with a tree
Trees and forests can be very healing, particularly at times of stress and uncertainty. I practise a Japanese type of mindfulness in nature called Forest Bathing. This simply involves spending mindful time around trees to reduce stress. Don’t worry - tree hugging is not required! I live next to the beautiful Dalkeith Country Park, so I am blessed with some wonderful trees which I watch through the seasons. They can become like friends and they are great listeners.
3. Be active and exercise outdoors
If you usually go to the gym, why not try something new and join an outdoor fitness class. Last year I started doing outdoor personal training and I intend to keep this going as soon as we’re allowed. At Restoration Yard, we have our own Personal Trainer Suzanne Maynard who offers a range of classes in our Wellbeing Lab and one-to-one PT – all outdoors (although to keep everyone one safe her classes are currently online). Check out our previous post on the benefits of exercising outside.
4. Go for a walk
As a Mindfulness teacher, I often hear that it’s hard to find stillness while sitting. This is so common, and I always suggest starting with a mindful walk. Walks can take so many forms; a walk with friend, or a dog, or a silent and contemplative walk. From a brisk power walk to a slow amble, I find that one of the best ways to change our state is to move and walking is available to most of us.
5. Come back to your senses
When we reconnect with our five senses, we come back to the body and to the present moment. This can be tricky at first as we habitually get caught up in thinking. However, it feels wonderful when we start to notice the breeze against our cheek, and notice the benefits for our wellbeing.
Breathing is wonderful for helping us to relax and let go of stress. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. When we breathe deeply, it sends a message to the brain to calm down and relax. Breathing is great to do anywhere, but I love to fill my lungs with fresh air.
7. Learn something new
Learning keeps our brain active and improves our wellbeing. The natural world has so much to offer. I got a wonderful book about clouds at Christmas, which has led to some sky gazing.
8. Slow down
Another of my intentions this year is to slow things right down, so I notice more. When we soften our gaze and develop our peripheral vision – rather than being focused on detail – we activate our parasympathetic nervous system – the relaxation part of our nervous system. My colleague Sisi Gibreel, head of retail at Restoration Yard, has been exploring slowing down with this book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, £8.99.
9. Appreciate natural beauty
When we start to slow down, we notice the beauty of the nature surrounding us. It’s wonderful to look, and it can be fun to take photographs and share them with others who may not find it so easy to get out at the moment.
10. Take off your shoes and be barefoot
I used to think this was a bit silly in winter, but I find it really grounding to feel the earth beneath my feet. I have even dipped my feet into the water, so I might even manage that swim one day.
These are just a few of my thoughts on how to connect with nature for wellbeing. I’m sure you have others. How can you boost your wellbeing by connecting more with nature today?
Jen Wood is an wellbeing coach, psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher with over 20 years’ experience. She is also our Wellbeing Consultant at Dalkeith Country Park. Jen offers individual wellbeing coaching, therapy and mindfulness sessions via Zoom or by phone.
For more information about Jen, visit her website at jenwoodwellbeing.com.