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The secret to getting the most out of your time in nature

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul.” – John Muir

Humans have been connected to nature since the dawn of time, but as our lifestyles continue to change and evolve, people are spending less time outdoors.

This means a feeling of a lost or broken connection between us and the natural world. We sometimes think of nature as being quite separate from us, and just - out there - in the woods or what we see while on vacation. but the reality is that nature is all around us all the time, and we interact directly with it, we are just not aware of these interactions.

Really, do you think about the sun's energy in that spaghetti sauce? Or did you consider the role of the bees in pollinating your apple? Probably not.

The same thing is often true of our time spent outdoors. We are often more aware of the need for sunscreen or insect repellent than we are of the intricate web of life all around us.

Nature-based activities are beneficial in re-establishing our connection with nature and reclaiming the outdoors in fun and engaging ways. Many of these activities can be done alone, with others and with children.

It takes a little more effort than just heading out to the park for a walk, but that is the point. Spending a bit of energy on learning and engaging with the natural world around us is where the deeper benefits are found.

When we learn the names of plants or the lifecycle of a beetle or taste the tea from a flower we have made a deeper connection. And, the miraculous world happening all around us just might inspire awe, opening us up to something bigger than ourselves.

We are interconnected to all the living things around us, big or small, and have a considerable impact on the environment. This understanding helps us to be reminded of our place in all things, and our responsibility in observing, appreciating and protecting what we are part of.

Traveling long distances doesn’t have to be included in your engagement with nature. Exploring and learning about your immediate surroundings is a great place to start.

Having some basic knowledge of your own ecosystem, native plants and animals allows us to feel a part of our surroundings and gives us a sense of place. This can be achieved by reading up on the species native to your region and going outdoors to identify them and learn about their ecosystem functions.

This can be in the form of bird watching and identifying plants, wild animals, and insects. Try bringing along a journal to record your findings and observations.

How you can take action:

There are nature activities applicable to every season. Some year-round activities include:

  1. Closely examine the nature around you by searching for hidden faces in the trees. Document your findings through photography or bring along a sketch pad and draw what you see.
  2. Take note of the plants and animals you see each season.
  3. Identifying and documenting different types of clouds.
  4. Observing seasonal constellations.

Some activities you can do during warmer months include:

  1. Take some time to observe the parts of a flower by dissecting them and learning about the function of each part in terms of pollination and fertilization.
  2. Spending time in nature doing physical activities such as swimming and hiking.

Colder months have a lot to offer in terms of nature activities as well. Next time you spend some time outdoors:

  1. If you find yourself strolling through a forest with coniferous trees such as cedar, pine, and spruce, collect a variety of fresh-looking needles (approximately 30 grams) in order to brew yourself a forest tea. Make sure you have positively identified the trees before consumption!
  2. Allow yourself to get familiar with the scents of different winter trees by snipping off some foliage and noting the differences in smell between species.
  3. You can even reconnect with your inner child and build a snow fort if the climate in your area permits!

Check out these resources for more nature activities and ideas! You might also want to visit this blog post on the 1000 hours outdoor challenge - especially if you have children in your life! 

In any case, deepening our understanding of the natural world deepens our connection to something much bigger than us and that is a meaningful way to spend some time.

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