Did you know that only 27% of adults frequently notice or watch the clouds? And only 19% of children regularly notice wildlife?
In a recent study by the National Trust (in partnership with the University of Derby's Nature Connectedness Research Group), 283 adults participated in the ‘Noticing Nature Challenge’. The results gave an eye-opening overview of how distant many of us feel from nature.
These simple, enjoyable moments of watching clouds, listening to birds or smelling wildflowers, are often pushed aside by screen time, busy schedules and a general disconnect from nature.
There is now even a recognised term for it - Nature-deficit disorder or NDD
Nature-deficit disorder is a term coined by American Journalist and Author Richard Louv, who investigates the relationship that young people have with the natural world. And importantly, the impact that connection, or more often, disconnection has on their wellbeing.
His findings mirror the understanding of many indigenous groups and Eastern practices. However, it has now become a well-studied concern shared by the West, not least because a large number of us are already suffering our disconnection to the natural world, struggling to see ourselves part of it!
There is firm agreement that focusing on creating stronger links between nature and people is crucial.
There are numerous studies which clearly indicate that time spent outdoors is associated with higher levels of happiness, self-worth and meaning — in both adults and children.
So how does nature make us happy? And if lost, how can we reconnect with nature?
How nature benefits our wellbeing
Nature can evoke all of our senses. By bringing us back to the present moment, being in nature can reduce anxiety and also stress hormones.
Physical exposure to nature (simply being outdoors!) can produce a feeling of calm. However, our overview of how connected we actually feel to nature is the most prominent factor that indicated higher levels of happiness.
Feeling connected to nature is associated with a higher feeling of belonging and self-worth.
What does it mean to connect with nature?
It’s all very well saying we should reconnect with nature. But what exactly does that mean? How do we fit it into daily life, how can it become a part of who we are?
Taking the time to actually ‘look at’ or 'experience' nature can be hugely beneficial to building a connection with it. This can be in the form of scents, sights, sounds, textures and tastes! You don’t need to reach the summit of a mountain or go on long hikes to be mesmerised by the beauty and tranquillity of the natural world.
Listening to the rustle of leaves in the wind at your local park, smelling the scent of the salty sea air on a walk along the pier, lying down in the grass to listen to the song of a blackbird in your garden, or marvelling at the blooms of a wildflower bursting through cracks in the pavement.
These small, accessible, everyday experiences with the natural world can be incredibly grounding. They’re also small reminders of the flora and fauna that we share the earth with.
Participating in nature-themed events:
This could be watching an upcoming meteor shower, watching the Severn Bore, heading to a wassailing festival, joining a local litter-picking group or celebrating natural events like the solstice or arrival of Spring.
Increasing time outside:
According to a recent study, simply spending up to 120 minutes in nature each week is enough to significantly improve your wellbeing and state of mind.
Spending more time in nature could come in the form of a new hobby, like foraging or bird watching. But simple changes to your routine could be enough to reap all the wellbeing benefits of nature. For example, changing how you commute or fitting in a lunchtime walk.
Seeing yourself as part of nature:
Ultimately, nature-connectedness was found to be the most beneficial to mental health and wellbeing. In the National Trust Noticing Nature Report, this was defined by three elements: how we think and feel about nature and also how we relate to it.
Regularly reflecting on our connection to this complex and beautiful natural world can be an incredibly grounding and comforting experience. Seeing ourselves as part of the tree of life and marvelling at and feeling part of nature can have a profound effect on our wellbeing.
Seeing our self as one with nature | The Wesley Shultz’s Inclusion of Nature in Self Scale.
The link between nature connectedness and pro-environmentalism
Studies have also now clearly shown that as we begin to see ourselves as part of nature, we develop a stronger want to protect the natural world.
With a rapidly changing climate, the link between pro-environmentalism and feeling connected to nature has never been more important.
Instead of seeing ourselves as separate from nature, understanding our place in the natural world can help to ignite the necessary responsibility we need to protect it.
“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.” - David Attenborough
This quote from David Attenborough identifies an important truth that may occasionally drift from our minds… We are an intrinsic part of the natural world, and we also depend on it — for everything!
Our fates are entwined.
The key to protecting nature (and improving and rebalancing our wellbeing) lies in how much we immerse ourselves in it and how much we see ourselves as part of it.
Our own nature connection action plan
At Jamu, we’re hugely passionate about reawakening young people’s curiosity for the natural world and helping everyone see nature in a different light. It’s why 10% of our profits go toward re-wilding projects and charities that help young people find a connection with nature.
Through our social channels and blog posts we’ll keep you in the loop with upcoming nature-themed events (like the solstices and festivals!), flowers or wildlife to spot, and all you need to keep noticing nature!