5 fun ways to feel more connected to nature
It's no coincidence that we tend to feel better after spending time in the great outdoors - and it's not just because you've taken a break from your daily grind.
Among other benefits, time spent in nature has been linked to more positive emotions and moods, improved focus, decreased levels of loneliness, stronger feelings of being socially supported, and greater levels of satisfaction with life.1-3
How can you strengthen your nature connection?
The level of connection you feel to the natural world seems to be a key factor in the amount of happiness it brings you,2 so how can you strengthen yours?
Research suggests that cultivating any of these five pathways can move you in the right direction:3
- Be in contact with nature: Get out and about in the un-built environment - even if it's just your garden or local park
- Engage with natural beauty: Pause now and then to soak it all in and allow yourself to be awestruck by the beauty around you
- Experience emotion: Tune in to how you're feeling to make your nature-time more impactful
- Look for meaning: What can you learn from your experience?
- Practice compassion: How can you take care of nature as you're passing through?
Looking for nature connection? Try these activities
Visit a national park
When was the last time you visited a national park? With around 700 available to choose from nationally, it's more than likely that there's one within a short drive of your place and many others that make for spectacular holiday destinations.
Take your pick from urban adventures like a kayak safari to Goat Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour National Park, desert drama at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, soothing rainforests like Lamington National Park in Queensland, or a challenging trek like the Overland Track at Tassie's Cradle Mountain National Park.
Join a local outdoor exercise group
Keen to enjoy the great outdoors and make some new local mates at the same time? Check out the outdoor exercise groups that are operating in your area. Why? Because exercising in green spaces has been shown to be even better for mental health than exercising indoors - and may make it easier for you to sustain your exercise habit too.4
One of the most popular is Parkrun, where thousands of folk around Australia gather on Saturday mornings for a 5-kilometre run in a local park or open space. (And before you say that you're not fit enough, don't worry - there's no time limit and you're more than welcome to walk if you don't feel up to running).
Get in the water
Like green spaces, being in a 'blue space' - that is, being in, on or near a body of water - has also been shown to have beneficial effects on personal wellbeing.5
So, if you're lucky enough to live near the ocean or another body of water, make sure to visit it regularly. Don't forget to take your goggles so you can commune with the marine life beneath the surface while you're there.
You might even like to become a regular ocean swimmer, like our Mover & Shaker Shan Withnell, who shares that she feels deeply connected to the sea and uses the moments before entering the water each day as a spiritual pause that helps her stay centred.
Participate in a Citizen Science project
All over the country, scientists and researchers rely on everyday Aussies to help them gather information and insights about what's going on in our natural environment.
Participation is usually free, and can be a fun and amazing way to strengthen your feeling of intimacy with the nature around you. How about becoming a butterfly spotter? Helping to map Australia's population of frogs by recording their sounds? Or perhaps you'd like to get up close and personal with the flora and fauna in your own backyard?
For an extensive list of the opportunities, visit the Australian Citizen Science Association's Project Finder.
Become a digital nature lover
If you're not able to get outdoors right now, don't despair, even looking at nature on your TV or digital device is better than nothing!
In a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, watching digital scenes of natural environments was associated with increased feelings of social connectedness.1
Top tip: If you haven't already discovered it, the ABC's Australia Remastered series is extraordinary!
- van Houwelingen-Snippe, J. et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2020;17(18):6879.
- Capaldi, C.A. et al. Front Psychol, 2014;5976.
- Lumber, R. et al. PLoS One, 2017;12(5):e0177186.
- Gladwell, V.F. et al. Extrem Physiol Med, 2013;2(1):3.
- Britton, E. et al. Health Promot Int, 2020;35(1):50-69.