In our modern world, the power and importance of connecting with nature can often be overlooked. But over the past year, many of us have developed a deeper appreciation for The Great Outdoors and what it has to offer – with daily walks, gardening and houseplant care becoming popular forms of escapism.
The mental and physical benefits of spending time in nature have been well documented, and include reduced feelings of stress or anger, a stronger immune system, increased energy levels, and a faster recovery from illness. Of course, our relationship with nature is also beneficial to its conservation. The more that we appreciate and connect with it, the more likely we are to be kind to our natural environment – and to consider the steps we can take to protect it, and help it thrive.
With all this in mind, we’ve put together a selection of 32 different ways you can connect with nature, both indoors and out, that will hopefully leave you feeling inspired.
32 ways to connect with nature and feel inspired
1. Build a hedgehog home
Hedgehogs are having a tough time at the moment, and while there were an estimated 1.5 million hedgehogs in the UK in 1995, today it’s believed that there are less than 500,000. Experts have said that this drop is largely due to hedgerows and field margins being lost during intensive farming, and as a result, hedgehogs’ reliance on urban and suburban gardens is growing.
So, if you’re looking for a particularly rewarding way to connect with nature, then why not consider building a hedgehog home in your garden? They need homes just like we do, and a hedgehog house is relatively straightforward to make. These instructions from The Wildlife Trusts will show you how to get started.
2. Practice yoga outdoors
Doing yoga outside is a great way to enhance the experience, because not only will it heighten your senses, but you’ll also get some vitamin D at the same time. Small moments – like the sound of birds chirping in the distance, the sight of a blue sky, and the feeling of the wind in your hair – can also help to bring your mind back to the present moment, making it easier to focus on each breath and movement.
Many yoga poses are also inspired by animals, such as the swan, butterfly, fish and king pigeon poses, so practicing yoga in a natural environment can help you to feel more connected to the different moves. Check out the yoga sequence below which you can do in nature without a mat, or have a read of 5 more reasons to take your yoga practice outside from Do You.
3. Plant some butterfly-friendly plants in your garden, patio or window box
Sadly, butterfly numbers have declined over the years (largely due to habitat loss), so you might have noticed that sightings of these beautiful creatures are becoming rarer. Butterflies emerge from their winter hibernation during spring, and then reach peak levels during the Summer.
If you want to lend butterflies a helping hand over the next few months, then you could work on making your garden, patio or window box a place where they can thrive. One way that you can do this is by introducing butterfly-friendly plants – such as marigolds or lavender – to your outdoor space.
To learn which butterflies to look out for as the weather gets warmer – such as orange-tipped and red admiral butterflies – have a read of this article from Discover Wildlife. Or if you want to learn more about how to attract butterflies to your garden, patio or window box, then take a look at this advice from the Natural History Museum.
4. Learn about different weather systems and natural disasters
Although there are many things we can control in our lives, the weather isn’t one of them! But we tend to accept this, and there’s something very liberating about the fact that we have no choice but to simply let go, and go with the flow.
However, something we can do if we want to better understand the world around us is to learn about different weather systems and how they work – including some of the more extreme weather conditions and natural disasters that are more likely to occur in other countries. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis are some of the most intriguing examples of these!
To find out more about natural disasters, check out these resources from National Geographic. Or to discover more about some of the most common weather systems, you might want to try this free course on understanding the weather from Future Learn.
To get a feel for just how exciting learning about the weather can be, check out the short video on tornadoes below.
5. Snap some wildlife photos
If you enjoy photography or it’s something you’re interested in learning more about, then snapping some nature shots can be a good way to get some practice in. Taking photos is also a fantastic way to celebrate and share the beauty and wonder of the natural world – and to see the world through a new lens.
If this sounds appealing, then our beginner’s guide to photography and our article 8 fun photography projects that you can start today will hopefully help you get started on your photography journey. This article from Wanderlust also features 20 stunning wildlife shots, if you’re in need of some further inspiration.
6. Keep a nature journal
If you want to become more aware of your natural surroundings, then you could consider starting a nature journal. Here you can note down any nature-related experiences that leave a lasting impression on you – perhaps an encounter with an animal, a particularly beautiful sunrise, or some interesting observations about the changing seasons.
Noting down the little things that we often take for granted is a great way to practice gratitude, and to adopt new perspectives on the world.
7. Watch a sunset or sunrise
There’s something peaceful, romantic, and utterly magical about soaking in the sight of a glorious sunset or sunrise. There can be something very soothing and grounding about seeing a new day dawning, or watching another day coming to an end – especially if you’re ever feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
For tips on capturing a sunrise, have a read of this page from the National Trust – or to catch a sunset, check out these tips here. You might also be interested in the Top 10 places to watch the sunrise or sunset on the Great West Way website.
8. Create a mini-pond in your garden or on your patio
You don’t need much outdoor space to create your own pond, and they make excellent feeding spots for hedgehogs, frogs, birds and bats (which are the best natural pest controllers for your garden!). With a little imagination, you can create a pond out of a washing up bowl, disused sink, or a large plant pot. Have a read of this article from Wildlife Trusts to find out more.
9. Have some virtual encounters with animals from around the world
Just because we can’t travel right now, that doesn’t mean that we can’t check in with animals across the globe to see what they’re getting up to! Why not check in with brown bears in Alaska, alligators in Florida, or gorillas in Eastern DRC?
There are plenty of live webcams set up in locations all over the world that will allow you to have a peak at what some of the World’s most intriguing creatures are doing right now.
10. Enjoy a meal outside on a warm day
Now that lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, and we’re allowed to meet friends and family outdoors – what better excuse is there to enjoy your breakfast, lunch or dinner from your garden, patio or balcony on a sunny day? Eating outdoors is also something that’s enjoyable to do alone while you watch the clouds float by, the bees bouncing from flower to flower, or a couple of birds foraging for insects. For some sunshine-inspired recipe ideas that you can enjoy outside this spring and summer, have a read of our article here.
If you don’t have an outdoor space of your own, then there’s no reason why this should put you off. Why not pack a picnic and head to your local park instead? Check out Jamie Oliver’s article on How to make the perfect picnic to get some ideas on what to pack.
11. Be near the water
Simply being close to a glistening lake, a still pond, or some rolling waves can promote feelings of peace, relaxation and tranquility. People often sit by the water when they’re looking to reflect, clear their mind, or remind themselves that they are part of something bigger. Research also shows that marine and coastal margins are some of the happiest places to be! To find out more about why being near the water can make us happier, check out this article from House Beautiful. Or if you’d be interested in visiting some new watery locations, check out the Most beautiful lakes in the UK on the Countryfile website.
Seas and lakes are also homes to many popular water sports, such as paddle boarding, sailing and kayaking. So if you want to combine some physical exercise with your love of blue spaces, then why not try an activity from this article on the Holiday Cottages website?
12. Take daily activities or creative hobbies outside
There are lots of ways that you can take advantage of the spring and summer days without having to create more space in your schedule. Activities like painting and drawing can be done from gardens, balconies, or parks – and landscapes and wildlife make great subjects! Research has also shown that being in nature can boost creativity and make you feel “more vital and alive”, which can be beneficial when you’re crafting works of art.
Other activities that you can take outside to get closer to nature include reading, eating, home workout routines, journaling and meditation!
13. Get involved in conservation
If you’re passionate about the health and status of our nature, and you want to make a difference, then you could find a way to support wildlife or nature conservation. From recording and monitoring trees and other plant life, to participating in beach clean ups to help maintain their natural beauty – there are plenty of ways you can support our planet, and develop a deeper connection with nature at the same time. Have a read of our pages on Getting outdoors and volunteering and Nature and environmental charities to find out more.
Once lockdown eases and we’re able to travel again, you might also want to consider looking into conservation opportunities abroad; such as helping to manage an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, or taking part in a Poaching Awareness Course in South Africa.
14. Buy some houseplants
Caring for houseplants is a great way to feel more connected to nature from the comfort of your home, and can be especially useful if you don’t have a garden. Some plants, like the beautifully-patterned snake plant and the elegant peace lily, have also been top-rated by NASA, because of their ability to remove toxins from the air.
If you want to get your hands on some houseplants, but you’re not sure which ones to choose, then check out our article; 10 low maintenance indoor plants that can add life to your home for some ideas and inspiration.
15. Watch some nature documentaries
Although some of the best ways to enjoy nature involve heading outside, nature documentaries are also a wonderful way to learn more about our natural world. This is especially true when it comes to learning about places that are more difficult to visit – such as deserts, deep blue seas, and snowy mountains!
The list of nature or wildlife topics you could choose to learn about are vast, and will depend on your personal interests. But if you’re looking for somewhere to start, then we recommend checking out the wide selection of science and nature documentaries available on BBC iPlayer. Serengeti, narrated by John Boyega, and Planet Earth, narrated by David Attenborough, are particularly stunning.
16. Grow something from a seed
Whether you have a garden, balcony, patio or windowsill, taking the time to nurture and grow plants can be a highly satisfying way to add purpose, satisfaction and reward to your days – especially if you choose to sow plants from seeds.
If you’re unsure what to grow, then why not consider starting with some fruit or vegetables? Not only will you be able to enjoy organic home-grown food, but you’ll also save money too! For ideas and inspiration on what to grow first, check out our articles; 8 superfoods that you can grow from home and 10 things that you can grow at home in a window box.
17. Try birdwatching
Forget TV soap operas or drama series – there’s a whole world of entertainment going on right outside your window! We often take birds for granted and might not notice them or think about them often, but it’s amazing how deep we can delve into their fascinating world if we just look a little closer.
For example, did you know that male wrens will work hard to build several nests during mating season, so that the female can select the one she likes best? Or that baby blue tits can eat up to 100 caterpillars a day? Or that sparrows regularly get into arguments because they spend too much time together? For more bird facts, and bird watching information, have a read of our beginner’s guide to birdwatching.
18. Slow down and be more present
One of the most effective ways to connect with nature is to simply slow down and focus on bringing your attention back to the present moment. Many of us spend time worrying about the past or ruminating about the future, which can cause us to miss things along the way. Sometimes, we just need to learn to stop and smell the roses! Check out our introductory guide to mindfulness to find out more.
19. Take up beekeeping
Bees are fuzzy, intriguing, hard-working creatures, and although small, their significance is huge. So much so, that scientists have officially declared bees as the single most important creatures on the planet.
Whether you want to discover more about bees, or learn how to keep a beehive yourself, our introductory guide to beekeeping will explain everything you need to know to get started.
20. Read books inspired by nature
As with any topic, reading is a great way to grow your knowledge of any nature or wildlife related topics. There are books that will take you on a psychological journal and explore how you can use your natural surroundings to keep you grounded, books that focus on the history and evolution of animal and plant series, and books that set out to celebrate our enchanting natural world through creative writing like poetry.
A couple of books we’d recommend are The Lost Spells by Robert MacFarlane (a magical little book full of nature poems and beautiful imagery) and The Hedgehog Handbook by Sally Coulthard. Or for more literary inspiration, have a read of this article on the Best Nature and Wildlife Books from Countryfile Magazine.
21. Explore the night sky
If you’ve always been curious about the night sky and would like to learn more about astronomy, then stargazing can be a great way to strengthen your connection with the natural world, and learn more about our place in the universe.
Not only will you get some fresh air, but you’ll also get some time to reflect or to clear your mind if you do it alone – or to bond with family or friends if you choose to invite others. If you want to know what to look for, then have a read of our article; An introduction to stargazing or What to look out for in the night sky in April.
22. Help birds avoid windows
Generally speaking, birds don’t have the best track record with windows, as they can fly into them, attack them, or eat window putty (because it contains linseed!). For birds, flying into a window can result in concussion or other internal injuries – but by making the window pane more obvious for birds (for instance by putting stickers on it), you can help to deter collisions. You can also distract away from window putty by placing a bird feeder somewhere near your window. To learn more about how to help birds avoid windows, have a read of this advice from the RSPB.
23. Treat yourself to some fresh cut flowers
A vase of fresh cut flowers are an easy and inexpensive way to add a splash of colour to any home. You can pick up a pretty bunch in your local supermarket for between £1 and £5, and some will be guaranteed to last for seven days. Treating yourself to a bunch of flowers regularly is a wonderful act of self care, and a great way to learn more about different flower types – as the flowers available in the shops will change with the seasons. This article from Pro Flowers will show you how to make your cut flowers last as long as possible.
If you’re interested in learning how to arrange your flowers, then you could also consider taking a floristry course.
24. Track wildlife
If you want to put your detective skills to the test, then you could learn how to spot signs of wildlife, and build a bigger picture of the animals that surround us. Footprints, fur, teeth marks, and leftover food can all be helpful indicators about what sort of animal has recently been at a location, and where they might have headed off to next.
There are plenty of online tools that can help you identify different wildlife signs – for instance, the Woodland Trust has a whole host of resources that can help you to identify animal footprints, bird feathers and frog spawn. You can also get plenty of tips on how to track wildlife in Britain from this Countryfile article.
25. Get stuck into some gardening
If you want to make the most of your green space, stay active, and create something that you feel proud of, then why not learn a few new gardening skills? There are plenty of things to do in the garden year-round from planting new bulbs to making your own compost, through to pruning and feeding shrubs and trees. For gardening tips and advice, you can visit the home and garden section of our website – or the gardening section of our community forum.
26. Run, hike or cycle
Running, hiking and cycling can offer you the opportunity to get some exercise, while satisfying your thirst for adventure. When you’re enjoying the views of your surroundings, exercise can feel less like a chore – as you get the added enjoyment of planning your route, seeing some pretty views, and feeling a sense of accomplishment when you reach your destination.
The other great thing about these activities is that you can continue to change up your route, to stop yourself from becoming bored. Check out the All Trails website to find 100,000 trails with maps, photos and detailed reviews.
27. Plan a camping trip
If you really want to be at one with nature and fully immerse yourself in all its sights and sounds, then there are few better ways to do this than by camping! Not only does camping make for a great sensory experience, but it also challenges us by putting ourselves in a situation where we don’t have easy access to all the home comforts that many of us are used to – such as central heating, a microwave, and other appliances like TVs and hairdryers. After a camping experience, people often feel humbled, and view life everyday comforts differently.
If you want to book a camping trip to somewhere in the UK later this year, then you can find some of the UK’s best campsites, here. Or, if you don’t fancy venturing too far, then you could also try camping in your back garden!
28. Make use of nature-themed apps and websites
While technology has the ability to remove us from nature, it can also be a great tool for helping us to expand our knowledge of our natural environment. Whether you want to identify a plant, bird or butterfly, plan a new hiking route, or learn more about the stars in the night sky – there’s an app or website that will be able to help!
If you’re wondering what sort of apps or websites you could turn to first, then take a look at this list of six nature apps from the BBC or this list of the Top 15 UK Nature Blogs, Websites, & Influencers in 2021 from Feedspot.
29. Learn more about animals that you know very little about
With so many different creatures in the world, there’s an endless library of knowledge out there for us to indulge in! Even if your animal knowledge is already quite broad, there will almost certainly be an animal out there somewhere that you could learn more about.
Examples of some fun animal facts that we enjoyed recently are:
- Baby elephants suck their trunks for comfort.
- Japanese Macaques (snow monkeys) play with snowballs for fun.
- A group of porcupines is called a ‘prickle’.
- The largest squid ever discovered was larger than a double decker bus. It measured more than 50 feet, and weighed nearly a tonne.
For more interesting animal facts, check out this article on The 100 Greatest Animal Facts from Fact Animal.
30. Find outdoor adventure through geocaching
If you love adventure and spending time outdoors, then you could spend a few hours geocaching. With millions of geocaches (tiny ‘treasure’ boxes) hidden around the world for others to find, the chances are, there’s some not far from you right now!
Getting started with geocaching is pretty simple: all you need is a GPS signal, and the geocaching app, which will help you locate nearby geocaches, using maps and coordinates. Head over to the geocaching website to find out more and download the app.
31. Spend more time with your pet
Spending time with our pets can help us to feel more connected to nature – especially dogs, as they love nothing more than going on a long walk! Why not spend some extra time hanging out with your dog or cat in the garden? Or why not try taking your dog for a walk somewhere completely new?
Pets are great stress relievers because they have no idea about bills, mortgages, or news events. They just want to love and be loved, and have an amazing ability to help us forget our worries, stay active, and explore new places. To find out more about the benefits of owning a pet, check out our article here.
32. Visit sunflower fields
Sunflower fields offer dreamy, enchanting views that you definitely won’t forget in a hurry. Picture hundreds of huge vibrant yellow flower heads swaying in the breeze, under a (sometimes!) bright blue sky. Between July and September, sunflower fields are popular with nature enthusiasts, and they make for the perfect place to snap some stunning nature shots!
Those who visit sunflower fields often come away with lifted spirits, a bucket full of beautiful flowers, and some treasured memories. Have a read of Countryfile’s article; 9 beautiful sunflower fields to visit in the UK in summer 2021 to discover some of the best fields to visit this year.
Taking the time to connect with nature can boost our overall health and wellbeing by improving our immune system, increasing creativity, and relieving feelings of stress and anxiety. The strength of our relationship with nature can also help to dictate the future of our natural world. The more grateful we are for natural spaces, the stars in the sky, and the beautiful creatures around us; the more likely we are to be kind to our planet, and do what we can to preserve and protect it.
The past year has been difficult, but nature has been a saviour for many of us. Never have we been so grateful for an early morning sunrise, the sight of new blossom, and the feeling of the warm sun on our skin. To quote American author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”
Do you connect with nature in any other ways? Are you planning to try any of the activities above? What do you love most about our natural world? Join the conversation on the science and nature section of the community forum, or leave a comment below.