Research Fellow at the Southern Cross University Centre for Children and Young People, Dr Kate Neale researches the benefits of gardening and greenspaces for wellbeing. She provides some tips for connecting with nature in the era of social isolation.
We are living through a momentous time in human existence. For many people, we’ve never felt restrictions on our lives in quite this way. Warnings of the toll on our mental health are being balanced with a plethora of reminders about the power of nature to keep us well. The message is clear that being in nature is good for us. However, as efforts to flatten the curve reshape, or even restrict how we can access beaches, national parks and public greenspaces, it’s helpful to consider other ways we can get our daily dose of Vitamin Green.
Take a closer look
Nature has a wonderful way of creeping into the densest urban areas. If you don’t have access to your own patch of green, take the time to look for nature’s presence in unexpected places. Cracks in buildings or footpaths often house rogue plants, displaying the power of resilience and dogged determination to thrive. Pollinators, birds and other creatures not only provide a close up view of the wonders of nature, but they are also a reminder that amongst all the chaos, life continues to flourish.
Make sense of it all
Engaging with nature can be a wholly sensory experience, but each sense brings opportunity in its own right. Listening beyond the constant hum of traffic is an opportunity to hear the songs of birds that contribute to the beauty of each day. Feeling the breeze on our skin reminds us of shifts in temperature and the constant cycle of seasons that continue even when the world seems to have stopped. Fragrant plants and flowers remind us that beauty can be expressed in different ways and plant-based foods remind us that nature nourishes in many ways.
Intently thinking thoughts of nothing
Nature-based art therapy is a powerful way of shifting our mind’s attention to simple thoughts of nothing. A piece of paper and a pencil is all you need to sketch something you see in nature. By focusing your attention on replicating the intricacies of a flower, or any one of the myriad of patterns found in nature, we allow our minds to switch off from constant news cycles, endless scrolling messages, repetitious COVID-19 messaging and accompanying worrying thoughts. Instead we have the opportunity to think deeply about very simple tasks without the burden of worry.
Hope for what tomorrow will bring
There’s a wonderful saying that planting a seed today is believing in tomorrow. As we face the prospect of social distancing measures that may last months instead of weeks, planting a garden (or even a single seed) shifts our perspective on what we are waiting for. Tending to our garden each day brings constructive activities to monotonous routine and gives us hope and wonder as we watch it grow. It also reminds us of the positive contributions that care and nurturing can can make in a creating a better world for tomorrow.
So, if you can’t step outside in nature, try bringing nature a little closer into view.
Media contact: Kate Neale, firstname.lastname@example.org