The impact of our relationship with the natural world is something I have always wanted to write about.
Nature can affect livelihoods, family, finance and health.
99.5% of the Earth’s history unfolded before humans arrived on the scene. We are merely part of a greater picture in life and we must remember that nature will still continue to go on without us.
“Birds know suffering and joy in simple states not possible for us. Their lives quicken and warm to a pulse our hearts can never reach. They race to oblivion…They were here long before the coming of man, they will endure the shadow of our tyranny, they will fly out into the sun again when we have gone.”
- AJ Baker, The Perengrine
Spring is here and it is the sign of new beginnings. The buds are blooming, the air is lighter, the colours are brighter and the smell of daffodils is dancing in the air. The birds are back in town!
It feels surreal being able to open a window, and not hear the constant sound of cars or aeroplanes. To be able to hear the birds and children playing outdoors is joyful, and this is your time to enjoy it too.
Did you know that your mental health can benefit from experience with nature? Studies have demonstrated so many benefits associated with images and sounds of the natural world, both in terms of mental and physical health. So, I'm going to talk about some easy ways to connect with nature.
Many of us will be feeling some form of loss at the moment, whether that's missing loved ones, struggling financially, missing our routines. Some of us are luckier than others - many have lost the freedom of space and are living in overcrowded conditions without personal space or time to think or move.
If you can, please do give one of these a go!
It is proven that regular exercise and fresh air will also improve the quality of your sleep. Enjoy the new views, the fresh air and the feeling of your feet connecting with the ground. An outdoor work out, going for a run or a cycle, or even just a brisk walk are all great ways to calm the mind.
Exercising outdoors can even make your workout seem less difficult!
When we exercise outdoors, the distraction of our new and changing surroundings, and the fact that we have to watch where we step, mean that we pay less attention to how tired we are, and can push ourselves further.
We can also use exercise outdoors as a way to explore new landscapes. The brain becomes more receptive when it is oxygenated. Researchers have found that when you walk, the foot's impact sends pressure waves through the arteries and it can significantly modify and increase the supply of blood to the brain.
Even if you are unable to go very far, you can still appreciate any outdoor space near you. Try to look at it in a different light.
© Elliot Prior, Instagram
Try and listen to the changes in wildlife around you, watch the birds interact and communicate with each other. If you’re still struggling with doing the same walk every day, maybe try going out at a different time of day.
2. SITTING IN THE GARDEN
If you are lucky enough to have a garden, try having your breakfast out there before the workday starts. This is the perfect time to appreciate your surroundings, and you may even spot new wildlife! It could be something as simple as a new leaf on one of your plants. Even if the weather isn’t great, spending time outdoors can improve your mood.
Top tip: a friend of mine enjoys going bare foot in the garden as he finds this a soothing way of connecting to the earth and feeling calm.
Or, why not build a small ledge and put some bird feed out? That way you can get to know the birds visiting your garden, something which I find very comforting. Try and find out what food their species prefers, as different birds eat different things.
Another idea could be getting hold of some pots and soil. If you are able to find a local plant delivery company, why not try to plant something? This could be some herbs, some veg, or your favourite flowers. You can do this on a balcony, but really all you need is a windowsill! Put something back into the earth. Research suggests that gardening can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and improve wellbeing.
If you have no idea where to start, here are some useful apps you can download that will be able to inform you about plant growth, requirements and seasons:
You could even call up a local gardening store and have a chat with them about useful tips! According to the woodland trust, the UK’s gardens cover a combined landmass that’s bigger than the Lake District and Peak District put together! Research in the UK has even found that personal gardens compose over 25% of the trees in non-forest environments, We know that plants remove CO2 from the environment, thus cooling the planet. This is a great way to play your part in preventing global warming, however small!
Growing your own food is becoming very popular. It is estimated that an average distance of 1,500 miles is travelled before the food we buy locally reaches our plates. This is another reason why potting on your window ledge is great! Not only would be be doing some good to the planet, but it's also a wonderful way of focusing your attention outwards, practicing patience as well as give back to nature.
There's evidence that gardening can even fight signs of depression and anxiety.
4. USING TECHNOLOGY
While it’s much easier for people who can get out and about, it can be a lot harder to connect with nature if you don’t have access to the outdoors.
If, like me, you don’t have a garden, try opening a window and sitting on the sill, or if you have access to the roof, give that a go. See if you can sit for a moment and just soak up the sights and sounds of your natural surroundings. Take some time before you start the day to focus on all the details outside. Just watch and listen.
For those of you that live in a block of flats, especially if your window overlooks another building, it is more difficult to experience nature's sights and sounds. I once lived above a pie shop and my window overlooked a concrete building. All I could smell was pie. But don't worry, you can still find other ways of connecting with the natural world when you are indoors, not just though the window. There are some great cheap or free apps out there which give you access to nature from the comfort of your home.
Ambience - download here
Ambience is a popular sleep sound app. It has a variety of calming so sounds. They include things like rain, waves, crickets, and even some music. It lets you mix and match various sounds from similar genres as well from custom sounds and tracks. You can have morning rain and then mix it with distant thunder and add a roof effect to create a unique sound. The app is easy, cheap, and effective.
Expectful - download here
This app is actually made for pregnant ladies, It offers natural sleep stories using noises, such as water in a stream and birds sounds.
You can even simply go on YouTube to find hours of audio of birds singing, rain falling and waves crashing.
Top tip: Next time you hear beautiful sounds of nature you could record them yourself on your phone or film them. My mum finds great joy in filming the sea and watching it back when she is on the train.
Radio 4 Gardeners Question Time is great for useful information about gardening for example I sometimes find just having it on in the background on podcasts very soothing in the morning.
Following gardeners or botanists on Instagram is a nice idea. As well as keeping you up to date with the latest planting tips, it will change up your newsfeed.
Some people even find that watching programs about the natural world is helpful for their mood. I have friends who say that when they watch nature programmes before bed, it helps them into a calm headspace and makes them feel grounded. Some suggestions are David Attenborough, Country file, Bear Grylls, Brian Cox and Gardeners World.
Fill your Instagram/Twitter/Facebook feeds with something a little greener. Or you could read more articles that involve nature. One that I’ve recently enjoyed is The National Geographic's Call to Wild (here).
5. ART/ PHOTOGRAPHY
Nature has been, and remains, an integral part of art and a great source of inspiration for artists. While appreciation of art is of course subjective, many people find it soothing to look at paintings of nature. Art is more accessible than ever thanks to the internet. If you are very arty you can even make your own pictures and collages.
6. BOOKS/ POETRY/ FILM
I often find flicking through nature books can be incredibly soothing, both in the morning and before bed. My personal favourites are Wild Swimming, The Garden Expert, and books on trees or herbs.
Why not see if the next book or poem you read or film you watch is in some way about our relationship to the environment?
Here are a few films to help you along the way:
Into The Wild
7. DOING OUR PART
Now it’s time to find some smart, simple ways that we can give back to nature in our day to day life.
- Pick up litter on your way back from anywhere, be it a walk, a run or even on the way to your local shops
- Think about where you are sourcing your food and products from
Going vegan is reportedly the single best way to reduce your environmental impact. According to the University of Oxford, cutting animal products (including in skincare!) from your household could reduce an individual's carbon footprint by up to 73%!
Veganism also works to reduce the impact of pollution as it is estimated that at least 51% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by livestock and the by-products of the livestock industry. The agricultural industry is also responsible for 55% of the world’s water usage, so by making daily changes and taking time to think about where you are sourcing food from can play a big role in positive change.
One fantastic way to do this is by replacing your daily shops with local zero waste companies. ZERO WASTE NEAR ME is a great free website that will help you find your closest zero waste shop!
This is why here at Suneeta Cosmetics, we are really trying to offer zero waste skincare options, and are supplying zero waste shops with plastic-free moisturisers, cleansers and bulk options. Zero waste is so important to us for many reasons.
This system does two fundamental things: It restructures our systems and resource use—from product design to disposal—to prevent wasteful and polluting practices that lead to those 87 cans of waste. It then captures discards and uses them, instead of natural resources, to make new products, creating far less pollution and feeding the local economy.
This protects our carbon sinks. Reducing, reusing and recycling can help prevent deforestation and land use changes that account for 25% of global GHG emissions.
Recovering 90% of our discards by 2030 will reduce GHG emissions by the equivalent of closing more than 20% of U.S. coal-fired power plants.
This is great news!
So it’s time we start to see ourselves as part of the bigger picture and think about how we can give back, but it's also time to remember that nature has the ability to heal.
Even in desperate times, the natural world has the ability to inform mankind. I believe that nature is trying to tell us something, and what we must do is listen.
“There is evidence that exercising outdoors can make your workout seem less demanding. From appreciating your surroundings to taking care where you put your feet, you’re so focused on where you are that you pay less attention to how tired you are, and so able to push yourself further." - Ben Fletcher, psychologist.