Wild Wellbeing - Connecting

Touching a tree © Matthew Roberts

The Five Ways to Wellbeing, developed by the New Economics Foundation, offer a helpful framework for connecting to nature. This week we’re going to focus on connecting.

Right now, connecting to nature, and taking some time out is even more important, but knowing what to do can be daunting, especially if you’re not able to leave your house. The Five Ways to Wellbeing, developed by the New Economics Foundation, offer a helpful framework. This is week three of my wellbeing blog, giving you helpful tips and tricks to take time out, whatever you’re doing and wherever you are. This week we’re going to focus on connecting.  

Humans are innately social, we evolved to live and work in social groups, and as a part of nature. However, as more and more of the world’s population start to live in cities, and our busy hectic lives take over, we’re losing our connection to nature. Research suggests that this disconnect may have an adverse effect on our wellbeing, but there is good news. Universities across the UK and beyond are building a picture of the impact nature can have on our wellbeing, specifically how building a connection to nature, going beyond simply having access to it, may help improve our wellbeing. The University of Derby have developed the five pathways to nature connectedness, and the Trust is embedding opportunities for these pathways into all the work we do. You might find following these pathways a good way to help you connect to nature. As in previous weeks I’ve also suggested a few activities, so whether you’ve only got a minute or an hour, these simple actions can help you connect.

5 pathways to connect to nature: Contact, Emotion, Beauty, Meaning, Compassion

5 pathways to nature connectedness © University of Derby

If you've only got a minute...

  • Hug a tree- we might not be able to hug each other at the moment (unless you live in the same household), but trees are still ok! If you’ve got a tree in your garden, take a moment to wrap your arms around it, press your ear to it to hear the life that’s going on inside the tree.

I have a lovely memory of wandering through the woodland at Testwood Lakes. Myself and several of my colleagues were enthusiastically discussing The Hidden Life of Trees, a book by Peter Wohlleben which we all seemed to be reading at the same time. He describes the amazing social network between trees, how they communicate with each other, share nutrients and support each other as they grow, or if they get sick or are struggling. All of which is happening beneath our feet as we walk through a woodland. We shared a deepened respect and connection for trees and I highly recommend reading the book. In fact, I think I’ll be picking it up again from my bookshelf soon.

  • Take your shoes off and feel the grass/paving stones beneath your feet- I did this myself at the weekend. There’s nothing quite like the feel of cool grass,  warm paving stones, or soft sand beneath your feet. One-minute standing still in your garden should connect you to the world around you.
  • Take your meal outside - Changing where you eat shouldn't add any extra time commitment on your part. With the lovely weather we've been having, I've been eating outside a lot more. It's a wonderful way to start my day and eating in the evenings, I've realised I've been less distracted by my phone or the TV as I eat and it's made for a lot more enjoyable dining experience.

If you've got five minutes or more...

  • Write down 3 good things that you experience about nature for a week. The three good things method is adapted from a positive psychology invention. Taking time out to write down three good things you notice in nature each day can help to improve your wellbeing and improve your connection to nature
  • Dress as wildlife for your next video call- add a little something extra to your next video call by encouraging everyone on the call to dress up as their favourite wildlife species. Up the challenge by telling them they can only use things they’ve found around their house or garden, no costume buying online!
  • Sign up for 30 Days Wild - Over the past five years, we've been working with the University of Derby to find out about the impact that 30 Days Wild has on participants. The results show that people feel happier and healthier after taking part, and for months after too! Sign up now

If you've got an hour or more...

  • Write a poem- there’s an amazing array of nature poems out there, this one from Wordsworth is probably one of the most famous. Why not have a go at creating your own?
Daffodils by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
  • Do a wild workout with friends, family or colleagues- the Wildlife Trusts have been hosting a mid-week motivation session every Wednesday for colleagues working at the 46 Wildlife Trusts across the country, I joined in last week and was great fun to take a bit of time out, enjoy some breathing exercises and a stretch. If you want to add a bit of wild into your workout, why not try wildlife yoga? See the instructions below
Wildlife Yoga
  • Share wildlife with your community- lots of families, friends and streets have set up messaging groups, or email newsletters to keep in touch. Add a wildlife element by sharing the wildlife you’re spotting from your garden or window; you could even try a photography competition- follow our toolkit for guidance on how. If you’ve got a front garden or area you can set up a nature swap it’s a great way of exchanging plants, soil and seed as well as other gardening materials in a safe way (see the example below from Francis Avenue in Portsmouth).
Swap Station Wilder Portsmouth

Swap Station Wilder Portsmouth © Laura Mellor

As always, we love to hear from you, what you’re up to and how you’re connecting to nature. Share your photos, thoughts (and poems!) with us via all our social media platforms or by emailing wilder@hiwwt.org.uk