Togetherall: Nature Watch

Use mindfulness techniques to step back from your ‘busy brain’ and connect with nature.

Spending time in and raising our awareness of the natural world can rejuvenate our spirits. Even the most die-hard city lovers seek solace in gardens and green spaces. And TV programmes about our native wildlife like the UK’s BBC Spring and Autumn Watch are encouraging many people to get out there and experience it for themselves.

‘He wasn’t thinking of anything; at least not anything that was related to words. He simply was. He felt the sun on his shoulders, watched a kestrel on silent wings, and all the time the ball of his foot pushed his heel from the ground and weight shifted from one leg to another, and this was everything,’ The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

The natural world is all around us, in city wastelands, parks and gardens; you don’t have to live away from the urban sprawl. Connecting with nature gives us a sense of the changing seasons and the natural rhythm of life. Research also tells us that connecting to and noticing our surroundings are good for wellbeing. However, looking and noticing can be two different things. Much of our lives are spent in automatic pilot, looking but not really seeing. Here’s an exercise to help you step back from your busy brain and connect with nature.

Step 1: Pick your spot

Find a regular spot where you can commune with nature. It can be a place to walk or just sit and look – but choose somewhere you’re unlikely to be disturbed. Preferably it should be outside. But if that’s not practical, a view of nature will do, even if it’s just the bird feeders, a window box or the trees outside your window.

Step 2: Get grounded

Sit in a comfortable position with both your feet planted on the floor or, if you’re walking, focus on the action of your feet lifting and falling on the ground. Notice your breathing and the sensations in your body, just through the act of sitting or walking – let yourself relax into it.

Step 3: Look around you

Now focus on what’s around you, what you can hear, see and sense. Notice the time of day and season – the colour of the sky, the weather, the light and how this affects the natural things around you. Savour the shapes, colours and textures of the world at large. Feel the sensations it brings – the smell of damp earth, the sound of bird song, the sun on your face, the wind in your hair.

Step 4: It’s all in the detail

What particularly catches your attention? What do you see that you haven’t noticed before? Take the time to zoom in on the details, like the stickiness of a tree’s buds, any animals, birds or insects, how the grass moves in the wind or the texture of a stone wall. Take time to explore anything you feel drawn to. Be open and curious. Consider finding out more about what interests you. Find yourself some pocket plant and animal guides, use the internet or join some of the national wildlife watching schemes, such as those run by the RSPB or BBC 2’s Autumn and Spring Watch.

Step 5: Stay on course

Each time your attention drifts, and you get caught up in the noise inside your head – memories, hopes, worries, plans – acknowledge your thoughts, then gently bring your mind back to the present. Think of your thoughts like minor tributaries leading off a scenic river, a momentary distraction from the rich and more immediate experiences around you. Think about collecting mementos of your walk, objects you can put in your pocket or hold in your palm, making brief notes or sketches of what you see or taking a few snapshots on your camera or phone. But don’t let these activities take over from the simple act of looking and feeling.

Step 6: Take time to reflect

Allow yourself enough time to get really immersed in what you’re doing. It may be no more than five minutes, though longer is better. At the end of the exercise reflect on what you’ve seen, what’s given you pleasure or awakened your curiosity.

Step 7: Take a fresh look

Return regularly to the same spot at different times and in different conditions. Each time take a fresh look at everything around you, especially those things you think you know already. See what you can find that surprises you or is different each time. Afterwards think about sharing some of what you’ve seen with a friend. Send them a note or a photo. Or share your experiences with other wallers by posting a brick or joining our Spring or Autumn watch talk-about (see below).

This article is part of our TogetherAll article series where we highlight content available on the TogetherAll platform. TogetherAll is FREE for all FFWPU-UK members. For more information, please visit:

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