Nature for all! No garden? No problem.
Do you like the idea of connecting to nature but don't live in the countryside or have your own green space? Maybe you're short on time or not very well and these are barriers to spending quality time outside. Don't lose hope or give up on nature - it's still there for you and you can still connect to it. Here's how:
Mindset & intention
It's true that those living in urban environments need to put more effort in to be in contact with nature - but it's important to have the mindset that nature is everywhere; not just in the countryside or far away. We can see wild things in the cracks of the pavement, if we choose to notice. That choice and the noticing are key - just being in nature isn't necessarily connecting to it; it's about paying attention and using your senses.
Without even going outside you can notice nature. What is the sky like today? Can you see any trees from where you are? You could watch them change throughout the year. Perhaps you can hear birdsong or even get a birdfeeder that sticks to your window. Perhaps a window box with some herbs in is possible - if this is outside it will attract butterflies and bees that you can watch come and go.
Find a sit spot
The 'sit spot' practice is something I learned in my Forest Bathing training, but you don't have to be in a forest to do it. It's simply finding a place in nature, perhaps in your local park, where you can visit regularly and sit for 10 or more minutes, noticing the sights, sounds, smells and textures of where you are. Returning to the same place inevitably creates a connection to it and you can see it changing through the seasons. It's a very grounding and calming practice, a bit like an outdoor meditation.
Neighbourhood flower watch
If you ever watch my stories on Instagram you'll have seen a lot of photos of flowers. Most of these are what I have seen growing over garden walls and fences in my neighbourhood that I've snapped while out running errands. Maybe try a mindful colour walk - this is where you choose a colour then set out on a short walk and notice this colour in nature; you'll be surprised at just how much there is!
Nature via tech
There's a growing evidence base about the benefits of using technology to connect to nature, which might sound like an oxymoron but is, for some people, incredibly helpful. Looking at images of nature and listening to nature sounds are easy ways to bring nature into your home - put up some photos, change your screen wallpaper to a nature scene and try putting on nature sounds in the background while you work; I like this one:
Grow your own
If you'd like to grow your own veggies but don't have space, you might think about getting an allotment (click here to find one near you). You could share this with family, friends or neighbours. Eating seasonal, local produce, especially if you've grown it yourself, is a fantastic way to be in touch with nature. There's also a wonderful project called Incredible Edible that uses planters and small spaces in urban environments to grow veg for the community. And if that isn't for you then the simplest option available to pretty much everyone is having a pot of herbs on the kitchen window that you can add to your cooking and enjoy the fresh aroma of.
Research suggests that having plants indoors can improve mood and reduce stress. But don't just buy any old plant, bung it on your desk and try to remember to water it: nature connection is about noticing and spending time with plants. Be present when you water it, notice the soil soaking up the water and leaves perking up. Really look at the plant and see the details on the leaves, touch it, smell it, even chat to it! It's been discovered that talking nicely to plants helps them grow :)
Plan trips to nature spots
If you don't have a car or live in the countryside it does take a bit more planning to access large green spaces, but it's not as difficult as you think as there are many places accessible by public transport. Walking apps like go jauntly are a good place to start, or have a google of what's in your local area.
Joining a guided walk is another good idea, such as Salford's October Walking Festival.
Reciprocity - e.g. litter picking
Caring for the environment is an important part of nature connection; all relationships need to be both give and take. What can you do for nature? Maybe you can go on a litter picking session (most councils will supply free equipment for you to do this) or join a local nature conservation group.
Read about nature
Learning is one of the 5 ways to wellbeing - so you can boost your mood and connect to nature by diving into some nature writing. Choose a topic that interests you or have a browse of your local bookshop or library. Some that I've loved recently are:
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
The Honey Bus by Meredith May
Eight Master Lessons of Nature by Gary Ferguson
Buy yourself flowers
A lovely, simply way to appreciate nature is to regularly buy yourself flowers - try to go for what's seasonal and, if possible, fairly local. Maybe put them on your desk or near where you sit for lunch so you can admire them regularly.
I hope this inspires you to find your own way of connecting with nature. If you'd like to read some of the research about this from the Uni of Derby click here.