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Bringing nature home

When I was invited to deliver a talk on my research in the middle of the UK's first lockdown last year, it seemed only right to discuss a few ideas on how we can get some nature connection while confined to our homes. While restrictions are gradually lifting here in England, we're still relatively confined to our local areas for now, and the incessant May hail (no really) seems to be keeping us stuck inside more than we might like. Beer gardens don't seem quite so welcoming during an icy downpour when we're not allowed to huddle.

So here's my quick overview of things we can do to connect with nature, and potentially benefit our wellbeing, from the comfort of our own blanket nest on the sofa home. Little changes can make a big difference to how we feel.

  1. Look/listen outside. Open a window, breathe the fresh air, engage your senses. Listen to the birds/wind/rain. Notice what you can see. Is it frosty/sunny/breezy? Are there birds, cats, dogs? Can you see clouds moving, trees swaying? Bulbs emerging? Can you smell flowers, or that lovely after-the-rain-earth-y smell? Can you feel the cold air, the rain, or the warmth of the sun? You can also do this from your garden (if you're lucky enough to have one). Take off your shoes and feel the cool grass on your feel.

  2. Plant some seeds or bulbs anywhere you can: garden, balcony, rooftop, windowsill, in an eggshell with cotton wool (why did we have to do this in primary school?). Buy a cactus that's hard to kill, a potplant or some cress or fresh herbs from the supermarket. They grow quickly and you get the added bonus of food for your efforts.

  3. Bring nature indoors in whatever way you can. Photos, art, rocks, driftwood, pinecones, shells, dried or fake flowers, pot pourri. Paint or draw a sunflower or a landscape. Double whammy: you don't have to remember to water any of these!

  4. Change your background on your laptop/phone/tablet/pretentious wall TV to a photo of a beautiful landscape, a photo you look on holiday (remember those?!), your pet, some leaves, flowers, anything natural. You'll get a little reminder of the wider world whenever you see your homescreen.

  5. Watch David Attenborough, any nature documentary or a film featuring beautiful landscapes (I've watched LOTR extended editions 4 times in the last year. You do you) to explore virtually. Or go for a digital wander around the himalayas on Street View. Every little helps.

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