For thousands of years people have been going into nature to seek a connection with something greater than themselves…
You see it in the flocks of city people on their yearly camping trips, primitive skills gatherings, books about nature-deficit disorder and the growing abundance of nature kindergartens.
However if you’re new to connecting with nature then you might be wondering, how do you actually do it?
In general, anything that gets you outside and consciously tuning in with birds, plants & trees in a natural setting will help you feel more connected with nature.
But there are also some really great daily practices & awareness routines that can help you accelerate your progress and get the most from your time outside.
I’ve been studying the effects of nature connection on mental, physical, emotional & spiritual levels for most of my life now, and in this article I’d like to share some key lessons I’ve learned about how to connect with nature.
So let’s hop right in…
Here are 13 simple & highly effective ways to connect with nature:
1. Slow Down Whenever You Enter Nature
Probably the most important thing to remember when you want to connect with nature is learning how to slow down and be truly present with the natural world.
Most people live their lives at such a fast pace that it becomes difficult to appreciate the subtleties of birds, plants, trees & natural settings.
If your mind is too busy with thoughts about the past or future, then you won’t be able to experience nature even if it’s right in front of you.
Modern society trains us to move fast and pack our schedules full of activity, but when it comes to nature this will actually interfere with your ability to connect.
Slowing down is something that can be done intentionally by taking a few deep breaths & letting go of everything that isn’t here in the present moment.
You can think of this like a little nature meditation time to focus 100% of your energy on the birds, plants, trees & animals in your surroundings.
This can be done in as little as 2 or 3 minutes, and it’s the first step towards quickly feeling much more connected to nature.
2. Explore The Natural World With Sensory Awareness
Another big secret to feeling in touch with the natural world is learning how to consciously tune in with your five senses.
Nature is a sensory experience that humans have been having since the beginning of our species.
For humans living a modern experience however, technology and artificial environments have caused our sensory awareness potential to atrophy.
If you ever find yourself struggling to reach a more calm and meditative experience in nature, it’s probably because your five senses are not engaging properly.
So when you step outside, always start by giving yourself a few minutes to consciously tune in with your five senses.
Here’s a little sense meditation you can use to get your awareness tuned up:
- Close your eyes & take a slow deep breath.
- Feel the air coming in through your nose, filling your lungs.
- Relax your physical body & allow yourself to feel any external sensations like sun or wind on your skin.
- Feel your feet connecting with the ground.
- Feel your entire body awareness against the sensation of space in the environment.
- Now scan through your audible surroundings & listen for any sounds like birds, insects or wind blowing through the trees.
- Spend a few moments just listening in every direction, near & far as you relax into your sense of hearing.
- Try to listen more deeply than you’ve ever listened before.
- Finally open your eyes and focus your attention on something beautiful. Let your focus expand outwards to engage your peripheral vision, taking in the whole scene.
- Add in your sense of smell & taste as much as possible.
Slowly relax and feel your connection to nature with all your senses fully engaged
Repeat this meditation often to help you get the most from every moment you spend outside!
3. Use A Sit Spot At Your Favorite Places In Nature
A sit spot is simply any place in nature where you can go on a regular basis for the simple intent of connecting with your local environment.
Just by sitting down in nature, it gives you the space to put 100% of your attention on your surroundings.
This is the core practice I’ve been using since the very beginning of my own journey with nature connection, and it’s always the first activity I give to new students.
The beauty of the sit spot is you begin to organically absorb connection just by being immersed in natural surroundings.
As you have repeated experiences with the same birds, plants & trees at your sit spot, you gradually gain a deeper appreciation for the subtle flow of seasons, daily cycles, life cycles and weather patterns.
I sometimes compare nature connection to making a new friend. You wouldn’t expect to know a human being after only spending 5 minutes with them… and the same is true of nature!
Spend a year sitting quietly in nature, and it will change your life forever.
I created an entire guide to using a sit spot in nature, so if you really want to get the most from this exercise, click here to learn more about sit spot.
4. Watch Animals In Their Natural Habitat
Connecting with wild animals is one of the great joys that inspires people to really appreciate & become engaged with nature.
Animals have a natural appeal because they’re living, breathing, active forms of intelligence.
They’re cute, funny, emotional & entertaining, so this is a great next step to explore if you ever get bored of sitting quietly in the forest meditating on your senses…
When is the last time you just stopped to really watch a wild animal for an extended period of time?
It’s amazing how much you’ll notice when you slow down enough to appreciate the squirrels chasing around the forest & nesting birds raising their families.
There are some really cool examples of animal behavior happening even in the middle of the city when you know what to look for.
So keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to watch animals!
5. Learn Some Plants
Fancy yourself a plant person?
For some people, plants provide the ideal pathway to connecting with nature.
The great thing about plants is you can really take your time to study all the little details and not have to worry about scaring them away.
(If you’re wondering where to start… here are 14 different types of plants that everyone should learn early on their plant journey.)
Most people only ever look at the surface level of plants… they might take a brief glance & then moving on to something else.
But nature connection requires deeper experiences in order to really have the most impact.
So instead, try getting down close and really study one individual plant more carefully than you’ve ever done before.
Try to really connect deeply with that plant until you know it very well before moving on to the next one. This is one of the secrets to avoiding overwhelm when learning about plants.
Notice all the little characteristics of the leaves, stems, flowers & branches.
There are endless pathways with plants to study edible & medicinal qualities, even how plants can teach us about their interactions with wild animals & insects.
If you want to go down the plant path, here are 6 awesome questions to help you learn about plants even if you have no prior experience!
6. Go Wildlife Tracking
Wildlife tracking is one of the oldest of all human skills.
It’s the original form of primitive science where the only measuring device is your own sensory awareness.
There’s no other skill quite as effective at sparking the innate curiosity and problem solving potential of human beings as tracking.
Have you ever found a set of tracks on the ground and wondered:
- What animal is this?
- When was it here?
- What was it doing?
- How fast was it moving?
- Where was it going?
Trackers are capable of answering all these questions and so much more. It’s actually pretty mind-blowing when you realize what’s possible.
These skills really do represent a very deep level of connection with nature.
It’s simply not possible to learn tracking without becoming deeply connected to all aspects of your local environment, so get out tracking and you will definitely start to feel a lot more tuned in
7. Take A Slow Wander In Nature
Occasionally I meet people who are not drawn to any one particular area of nature study like birds, or plants or tracking.
Some people just want to be immersed in the natural world & follow the intuitive pull of whatever natural mystery shows up in the moment.
In this case, you might find wandering is a great activity to help you start connecting outside.
Wandering is kind of like a moving version of the sit spot exercise we discussed above.
The best results come when you mix these two activities together: Wander for a little while, then do a sit spot, then wander a little more.
It’s important to make a distinction between wandering & hiking.
Wandering works best when you can really slow down & let go of all the time limits: It’s about exploring the natural world in a timeless space of watching & listening.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with hiking, usually the focus is more on moving quickly and getting to the destination.
Hikers are notorious for walking right past rare plants & animals without even seeing what’s there because they’re too focused on the trail.
So here are some useful guidelines for wandering as a path to deep nature connection:
- Don’t stress too much about the location. You can even do this in your own backyard. It’s about HOW you engage with nature rather than where.
- Give yourself lots of time so you don’t feel rushed. Try to lose track of time, even if it’s just within a planned period of 30-60 minutes.
- Start with a sense meditation to get yourself in the right frame of mind.
- Move slowly. Try half or even a quarter of your usual walking speed.
- Stop frequently to re-engage your senses.
- Go off trail if possible. Pay attention to where you feel pulled to go in the moment. Release any expectations & plans you might have about what you’ll see or experience.
- Savour the expanded feeling of connection to your surroundings whenever you feel it.
8. Learn Bird Language
Bird language is the art of tracking animals by following bird alarm calls.
Whenever a coyote or bobcat comes stalking through a bird’s territory, birds will respond by creating distance & alarm sounds that broadcast useful information about their perceived threat.
If you’re drawn to the idea of finding wild animals by tracking, but lack a good substrate like sand or snow, bird language can help you accomplish this same result.
For me personally, bird language was one of the main ways I learned to connect with nature.
I’ve used bird language to locate and get close to owls, coyotes, bobcats, domestic cats, hawks, mountain lions, bears, squirrels, raccoons, possums, deer, and too many amazing animals to even mention.
It’s impossible to describe the feeling of using bird language to make practical predictions about a landscape.
It’s like having your bubble of awareness cranked up to 100x further than what can normally be perceived directly.
Check out my beginner’s guide to bird language if you want to know more about how birds can help you connect with nature.
9. Ask Good Questions About Nature
One of the best ways to deepen your experience of nature is by asking really good questions.
Every time you ask a question, your mind is coaxed out of it’s shell and into the wider world of discovery.
A curious mind is an absorbed mind, and nothing works better to actually get your senses activated than a really good question.
Asking good questions is also one of the personality traits that tends to emerge in everyone who becomes deeply connected with nature.
I can always tell how much time someone has spent connecting with nature by the quality of questions they ask:
So what are you curious about? How can you nurture that curiosity? And what new questions arise as you seek the answers?
- What’s happening with the birds?
- What’s happening with the plants & trees?
- What’s happening with the seasons & the broader ecosystem?
- How are all these things affecting the mammal populations?
- Why are the crickets so late this year?
- What animal left this track?
- How are these things all connected?
Don’t worry too much about finding all the answers.
The answers will come with time & practice on your awareness skills. For now, the question is the key to going deeper.
10. Keep A Nature Journal
Nature journaling is a great way to record observations and keep track of your development over time.
I want you to think back to your favorite moments of connection with nature…
Maybe it was spotting some rarely seen animal, or being immersed in a beautiful environment at dawn.
Recall the image in your mind and consider the following:
- What do you remember of that experience now?
- How much detail can you remember about the location?
- What kind of trees & plants made up your surroundings?
- What actually happened before & after the key moment?
- What was the weather?
- What time of day was it?
- How did you feel inside having this experience?
Now here’s the thing to realize about journaling:
If you didn’t journal that experience, chances are you only have a vague mental image, or even worse – you remember that it happened but you don’t have ANY internal sensory memory left to access in your mind’s eye.
So how can you connect with nature if you don’t even take the time to remember your deepest moments?
Nature journaling is like putting your deepest moments of connection into the vault of your mind so you can vividly recall and carry those memories into your future.
Try recording your experiences so that a reader could see through your eyes and share your perspective. Describe what was happening around you with the plants, birds, trees, etc.
This is also a great place to write down your questions and things to further investigate next time.
(If you’re interested in learning my favorite strategy for keeping an effective nature journal, check out my nature memory journal program)
11. Share Your Stories With Nature Friends
You can also bring your reflections to a whole new level by retelling the story of your experiences with other people.
This is kind of like a live & more interactive version of nature journaling because you get to engage in a two-way dialogue about your experiences.
This helps to spread curiosity & knowledge of your local landscape around with others in your local community.
Tell your friends and family about what you’re seeing at your sit spot in nature. Tell them about your new discoveries with plants & birds, and let them join you in your curiosity.
This is really what nature mentoring is all about. It’s sparking an ongoing dialogue about your personal interactions with nature so you can better learn & grow as you create a culture of deep connection.
This is the beginning of a new oral tradition that grows and anchors your stories & memories to your favorite places in nature.
It gets you socially engaged with wanting to look closer & gain deeper understanding of the land.
This is exactly what we do in my group mentoring program, and it’s an incredibly fun & effective way to get more connected!
12. Connect With Nature In Your Own Backyard
It’s important to always remember that you don’t need to visit the deepest and most secluded wilderness to experience the full benefits of connecting with nature.
When people have amazing, exciting & awe-inspiring experiences outside, very often the tendency is to assume the outside world is responsible for creating that experience.
They mistakenly conclude that more secluded or rare locations are required in order to have a more profound experience.
Instead, what I’ve learned over many years is that connection to nature isn’t determined by where you go, or how big the trees are… rather it comes from how you choose to engage wherever you are.
Nature is just one part of the equation.
The other part is YOU!
If you’re distracted or internally focused as you move through nature, you won’t notice the deeper lessons of trees, plants & birds because your awareness is shut down.
Likewise, you could be in the most humble of city parks, and if your awareness is truly wide open, you can have amazing life changing moments of connection right there.
This is one of the most important take-aways I want you to get today.
You don’t need to go into the deepest and most secluded wilderness to experience all the benefits of nature connection!
If you simply focus on engaging more deeply in whatever natural setting, you WILL start to feel the effects.
So if sitting in the garden watching lady bugs brings you peace then go do it. If you have hiking trails nearby, make use of them!
Even something as simple as berry picking:
Every landscape has it’s own unique opportunities, even in the middle of a big city.
With the right focus and mindset, any activity in nature can be a deeply meaningful experience that clears the mind and brings balance to the human system.
Just don’t pressure yourself to drive 5 hours every time you want to connect with nature. Learn how to connect with nature in ways fit naturally into your own lifestyle.
This is so important I created a whole course about lifestyle design that integrates nature connection.
13. Feel How Nature Affects You
One of the best ways to connect with nature is by cultivating mindfulness of the effect nature has on your mind & body.
Spending quality time in nature just feels really good. It brings us to a state of mental & emotional clarity that relieves stress & recharges our energy for life.
This feeling can be described as love or inspiration. Some people feel it as spirituality. For others it’s a link to our ancestral past and a more harmonious relationship with the earth.
Since everyone is a little bit different, it’s helpful to know what this connection feels like for you.
You can identify this feeling by internally checking in and comparing how you feel before, during & after every experience you have outside:
1. Observe Your Feelings
Before you even go outside, take a moment to scan through your body and notice how you feel. Are you relaxed? Are you tense? How smooth or jittery are your physical movements?
Notice any emotional sensations. Are you feeling positive, negative or neutral?
Notice your mental state. What thoughts are running through your mind? Are you distracted by anything?
You can make a few notes in a journal if that helps you.
2. Then go outside and spend quality time with nature
Just step outside and focus on being completely present with nature, using all the different methods discussed in this article.
The most important thing is to slow down, be present & engage your external sensory awareness rather than getting caught up in thoughts.
Give yourself this opportunity to really settle in and feel a genuine connection with your surroundings.
Make sure you take enough time to check in with all the different layers of nature from the smallest insects buzzing in the flowers, to the clouds floating in the sky.
3. Compare how you feel afterwards
After a period of time, notice any changes in your mental & emotional state.
- How do you feel differently as you sit quietly & relax into your senses?
- How would you describe the change taking place in your mind & body?
- What happens with your thoughts as you settle into nature?
- When do you get feelings of joy, happiness or inner peace?
It’s not uncommon for people to completely shift emotional states just by sitting quietly in nature for a period of time.
If you’re very new to all this, or if you live a very complex & busy lifestyle then it will probably take a little bit longer.
However with repetition & practice, this feeling will come much faster and have deeper overall impact on you.
This is a practice that you can repeat on a daily or weekly basis.
You can think of it like hitting the reset button, giving your brain a chance to defragment and optimize so you can perform better in work, relationships, school, creativity, and overall life enjoyment.
This connected feeling and the effect it has on human performance is one of the big reasons why nature connection is so important.
Why Nature Connection Is Important
It keeps the mind sharp. It teaches history and respect for life and others. It provides an unbroken link to our roots as people.
Many people use nature as a way to stimulate creativity.
Others are seeking to create a rejuvenating retreat from the hustle & bustle of modern lifestyles.
The experience of being immersed in nature can even be deeply spiritual and life altering (as many seekers through the ages have written that the best way to access inner peace and find their sense of purpose in life is through nature).
Unfortunately most people have no intentional practices that connect them with nature on a daily or weekly basis.
As our society seems to get more crazy and the sensitive environment slips into decay, many people are worried that we’ve gone too far into chaos to escape.
But when you make nature more of priority, it changes your relationship and helps you actually feel a connection in your daily life.
Using the techniques & exercises shared in this article, you now have a comprehensive idea of how to connect with nature.
All you have to do is follow the recipe and start practicing!
Let me know if you have questions or comments. I love hearing from folks on the journey and I’ll do my best to respond whenever possible!
If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll love my free video training – How To Read The Secrets Of A Forest.