Have you ever wondered why it feels so good to be outside amongst the trees, sipping a cup of tea in the garden or strolling along the sea-side? Environmental psychology explores the study of human wellbeing in connection to the environment. It’s the offshoot of brain science that focuses on the relationship living things have with nature and holds the answers to why connecting with nature can awaken happiness and inner peace.

Our affinity toward nature is genetic and deep-rooted in evolution however the modern lifestyle has led many astray toward an addiction to content and technology and an increasing disconnect from nature. The impact is a lack of care for the natural world.

I’ve recognised over the years the effort to nurture my own wellbeing has led to a desire to nurture the natural world. There seems to be no separation. As my relationship with the natural world developed, I became increasingly aware of the bountiful gifts she (nature) has to offer.

Natural disasters and society are placing increasing pressure on people to care for the environment, but how can one care for something which they feel disconnected from?

I’ve discovered that a holistic approach to CARE enhances connection to all living things. It builds healthy relationships which are fundamental to our emotional and psychological wellbeing. A holistic approach recognises that effective care is provided when we establish a degree of care for all that share our environment; self, family, community and nature.

So how do you strengthen your connection with nature and desire to care for the natural world? In my personal experience it began by caring for self, which involved spending more time outdoors. Simply by paying more attention to nature when you go outside helps to develop an awareness of your surroundings. If you focus on engaging more genuinely in any natural setting, you will immediately start to feel the effects.

Here are some practical ideas:

Pay attention – notice how you feel before going outside. Try scanning your body for any points of tension or emotional sensations and notice your mental state – what thoughts are running through your mind? How does that change once you’re outside?

Use your 5 senses – once you’re outside, pay attention to your 5 senses (sight, touch, taste, sound, smell.) Nature is the best teacher of accurate perception and the more you can perceive and observe, the more fulfilling your life experience becomes.

Nurture the environment – spend time gardening and/or creating your own herb or vegetable garden. If you’re out taking a walk, take a bag with you and collect items of rubbish.

Try learning a new outdoor activity – kayaking, bush walking, or bird watching.

Bring the outdoors inside – add plants to your home and ensure there’s plenty of natural light. Also open up the windows for fresh air (when possible).

Significant research provides evidence on how proximity to nature improves mood, enhances respiratory functioning and helps to regulate hormones. Just by being outdoors and using all your senses to appreciate nature, you can be more mindful of the present, gain emotional resilience, and combat stress with more vitality.

Environmental psychology might be a relatively new term, but the early tribes and indigenous groups knew long before us that nature is pivotal to our wellbeing and survival.

“When a man moves away from nature his heart becomes hard.” Lakota proverb

Stay close to nature and it will enhance your ability to care.