When I was 17 years old, I became interested in how nature can provide practical lessons and answers to challenges I was facing in my own life.
I read many inspiring books, attended hundreds of classes and sought out the best mentors of nature awareness & wilderness skills I could possibly find.
What I discovered had a huge impact on my own life, and it just goes to show that nature is filled with amazing things to teach us.
One thing I’ve realized is that nature can only teach what you are open to discovering.
Since everyone approaches nature from their own unique perspective, you’ll find the lessons are driven by what you are personally looking for.
Nature will teach you different things depending on your goals. It can teach you how to think more clearly & scientifically, or enhance your sense of spiritual connection, or even achieve personal success. It all starts with having an attitude that aligns with your own personal interests.
Every moment we spend in nature is an opportunity to make amazing discoveries about ourselves and the world we live in.
Simply being surrounded by birds & plants has amazing beneficial effects for the mind & body.
But you can also amplify these lessons when you explore nature in a more intentional way. The more clarity you have about what you’re looking for, the more likely you are to find it!
So today let’s explore 14 things nature will teach you…
1. Naturalist Intelligence
On the most basic level, nature will teach you about the actual physical environment that sustains all life on this planet.
There’s a huge difference between learning about nature from a book, versus having your own real life experiences with birds, plants, trees & forests.
Naturalist intelligence is a recognized learning style that relates to observing patterns in the natural world and having empathy for animals.
These are inherent human skills that anyone can develop by having adventures outside, tracking animals, harvesting plants & herbs, and connecting with the birds.
But naturalist intelligence is not just about knowing things related to plants, trees & birds. It’s also about your larger capacity to observe patterns and tune into your physical surroundings in all areas of life.
Most people in the modern world have lost their innate naturalist intelligence, but human beings are animals at heart. We’re biologically designed to be surrounded by plants, birds & fresh air!
With naturalist intelligence, we gain the skills to care for our environment and make life better for everyone in the process.
(And for teachers, I made this guide to creating nature lesson plans that foster naturalist intelligence)
2. Presence & Awareness
Nature is possibly the world’s best teacher of how to be truly present & have awareness in daily life. All you have to do is sit quietly & observe your surroundings.
Many modern people lead lives that are almost entirely driven by a lack of presence & awareness. They get stuck in a loop of painful memories from the past, or worrying and planning for the future.
It’s one of the unfortunate side-effects of living in a technology obsessed world with constant screen time, computers, smart phones and high-pressure scheduling.
Almost never do we allow ourselves the space to simply sit in the present moment and observe our experience without judgement.
Being immersed in nature is like the exact opposite of being driven by technology… It’s filled with so much timeless beauty that it pulls you out of the internal world of thoughts & ideas.
It helps you become grounded in the present moment so you can have more access to mental & emotional clarity.
As nature calls your senses outwards, you’ll find yourself being less absorbed with what’s happening in your head and more tuned in with the daily experience of life.
3. Using Your Senses
One of the biggest lessons I ever learned from nature was that it’s possible to increase the capacity of human sensory awareness.
Most people dramatically underestimate the importance of basic seeing, hearing, feeling & observation skills.
Did you know that many of the most common “learning disabilities” like autism & attention deficit disorder have a strong sensory component to them?
A lot of the therapies that help people to overcome learning challenges are focused around providing meaningful sensory stimulation.
Like many people growing up surrounded by modern technology, I spent the first part of my life fairly disconnected from the ability to consciously use sensory awareness to make observations about my world.
I also really struggled with focus and attention.
But I still remember the first time I consciously practiced my sensory awareness skills outside by looking at plants & trees, and listening to distant bird sounds.
It opened up a whole new world of discovery that has dramatically transformed my mental clarity and capacity to learn faster by watching & listening carefully.
4. Unstoppable Focus
Along with the increases in overall awareness that come from being surrounded by nature, you’ll notice that your ability to focus will also really improve.
Nature teaches focus by first quieting your mind of the distractions, and then captivating or sharpening your attention through curiosity.
Nature is filled with so many unique sights, sounds & smells to tantalize your senses. There’s something around every turn to captivate your awareness.
This creates a unique kind of balance between stretching your senses outwards, and also honing your focus on specific things that make you curious.
When it comes to exploring nature… You never want to get too wrapped up in any one thing because you’ll miss out on dozens of others. But you also don’t want to miss the opportunity to really dive in and take a close look at whatever is catching your attention in the moment.
The ability to study a plant or a bird and later recall those observations so you can look it up in a field guide requires a level of focus that simply doesn’t get nurtured in an indoor classroom.
This is how nature will teach you a kind of organic scientific focus that’s driven by your own developing curiosity rather than the external desire to get good grades or achieve status.
Your ability to focus is a skill that can be improved with practice… and nature is one of the best teachers of this.
5. Stillness & Meditation
One of the simplest things to do outside is be still & meditate.
Have you ever noticed that it’s difficult to be distracted by thoughts when your mind is being stimulated by a rich tapestry of sounds, colors & experiences?
This is why many people report that simply being in nature is as effective or even more effective than sitting in quiet meditation indoors.
All you have to do is take a bit of time to drop into your body… feel the sunshine & the breeze on your skin… and listen deeply to the birds in the distance.
You’ll notice that as you center yourself in the 5 senses, you’ll naturally drop into a much quieter state of mind that is both mentally calm and emotionally peaceful.
This is a natural state of meditation. No difficult techniques… just pure nature.
Authenticity is one of the big secrets to success in life.
Nature teaches authenticity by giving you opportunities to be alone with yourself in a truly non-judgemental environment.
Most people choose their life goals based on what other people want for them, or what society deems important, rather than what’s truly in their heart.
But following other people’s goals won’t lead you to fulfillment. The right goal for one person, is not right for another.
This is why it’s absolutely critical to get in touch with your own unique path.
Nature helps you build authentic self awareness because it doesn’t try to change who you are or influence your decisions.
Instead, it removes all the outside influences of media & other people’s opinions, while amplifying the quiet voice of truth that so often gets ignored.
Nature doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. There’s no judgement. Just the pure freedom to be yourself as you are.
This is why people who spend lots of time in nature find themselves living a more authentic path in life.
7. Awe & Wonder
Many people today feel like the world has no magic… it’s like we’ve lost the romance & excitement that inspires true creativity & progress.
But immersing our senses in nature is an opportunity to bring back that genuine sense of amazement and magical wonder.
Nature is filled with so many amazing mysteries and beautiful moments that inspire the mind.
It’s also filled with the unfiltered realities of life & death in the forest.
If you spend lots of time in nature, you will eventually encounter both the gift of new life, and also the realities of death.
Witnessing the birth of new animals, and also their deaths evokes a sense of humble reverence for the preciousness and fragility of life.
These moments of awe & wonder will really put things into perspective and clear out the negativity from your mind.
Any feelings of anger or frustration, or grief become replaced by a lightness and open wonder. It’s a sign that you’re letting go of attachments and beginning to bask in the beauty of nature.
If we look back at all the greatest leaders & thinkers throughout history… many of them found their insight and inspiration through nature itself.
We can all benefit from the same.
8. Gratitude & Appreciation
Nature teaches us how to be grateful and appreciate the positive things in life.
This is especially apparent when we have moments of hardship and pain.
Even amidst all the problems of life… we discover that birds are still singing, the sun is still shining, and somehow life goes on.
It doesn’t change the fact that life is going to knock you around… but gratitude does enable you to embrace all parts of life with greater balance and harmony.
Many people today have lost their sense of genuine appreciation for life.
We’ve become disproportionately surrounded by negative influences like news, magazines, and countless other things that make us feel bad about ourselves and life.
We get lost in the fast-paced world of technology & business until each moment of our life is filled with things that distract us from what’s truly important.
Nature on the other hand, helps us to slow down out of the whirlwind and tune our minds with the positive things in life.
It brings balance to the daily negativity that so many of us are exposed to.
You’ll notice that simply taking time to appreciate the natural world, it reminds you of all the things we have to be grateful for in life.
9. Emotional Freedom
Nature teaches emotional freedom by providing a better strategy for dealing with the challenges of life.
Have you ever noticed that when people feel trapped in a negative emotion, they feel pressure to react fast and often make rash decisions to “fix” the problem?
But the real problem is that making decisions from a negative feeling tends to create unwanted results!
Sometimes when life gets overwhelming, the best solution is simply to take a break and go connect with nature.
Surrounding yourself with nature gives your mind a chance to catch up and unwind, so you can make decisions from a place of freedom rather than feeling trapped.
Nature has taught me that I don’t have to be a slave to my feelings.
Whenever I feel trapped by a situation or experience, I always know I can step outside and find a different feeling before moving forward.
It helps you to realize there’s a fluidity to your perspective that lets you see things from all different angles. This is true freedom.
10. Taking Pleasure In The Simple Things
Nature is the essence of simplicity.
When you learn to absorb joy and pleasure from simple things like trees & birds, you become less dependant on complex circumstances in order to be happy.
- At this point it becomes possible to gain fulfillment and joy from sitting quietly and listening to crickets chirp.
- Or drinking a hot cup of herbal tea made from wild-crafted plants.
- Or sitting around a crackling fire in the dark winter.
You find that you no longer need the latest toys or gadgets in order to be happy.
The draw of thrill-seeking behavior becomes more balanced, and you become less dependant on other people, which actually gives you more freedom to simply enjoy life to the fullest.
11. Relationships & Emotional Intelligence
Many people notice that as they become more sensitive and empathetic to nature, their interpersonal relationships also improve.
This is partially because your emotions become more manageable, and also because you’re developing greater internal and external awareness.
First – You learn to feel what it’s like when you get caught up in negativity so you can make different choices.
Rather than having a knee jerk reaction to the unwanted behaviors of other people, you’ll be more likely to step outside and find inner peace before deciding what to say or do.
As you become more prone to releasing negativity in nature, rather than passing it on to others, you’ll notice that people start to treat you better and give you less reasons to be upset in the first place.
And second – Another big part of maintaining good relationships depends on you being tuned in with the people around you.
You’ll notice that watching birds and observing nature makes you infinitely better at detecting the body language & emotions of fellow humans so you can respond more appropriately.
12. Self Acceptance & Healing
Being surrounded by nature provides a mental spaciousness & opportunity for self healing.
The inner calm & clarity found outside means there’s less inner conflict, mental distractions & negative emotions draining on your energy.
The result is you begin to have a greater capacity for self reflection and gain the ability to look at yourself with less judgmental eyes.
Rather than feeling shame about the unwanted emotions or problems you may be struggling with in life, instead you can learn to accept yourself as you are.
This self acceptance is exactly what begins the healing process.
When you’re able to drop in and stop resisting the problem areas, suddenly things begin to flow again.
You discover new ideas & choices begin to appear spontaneously. You’re able to make better decisions from a place of abundance rather than lack because you’re feeling good about yourself.
13. Unconditional Love
Nature teaches unconditional love by allowing you to be yourself without judgement.
Most people are surrounded every hour of every day by judgmental people and negativity.
But when you spend quality time in nature, suddenly you’re free to be yourself, and this initiates a gradual letting go of painful emotions, thoughts & feelings.
Nature doesn’t care about the mistakes you’ve made in the past. It doesn’t care what kind of person you are. Nature simply exists and allows you to exist with it.
This is a very freeing experience. Many people have never truly experienced a love that comes without conditions.
The result is that spending time in nature starts to feel absolutely amazing!
And as you spend more and more time simply being present with nature… it just keeps feeling better and better.
The process is so enjoyable and feels exactly like falling madly in love with nature.
At the highest levels, you can experience a unity with your surroundings that simply feels like pure love, without any attachments or conditions.
Essentially – your own capacity to love is expanding… which enables you to feel loved at a deeper level, but without all the usual associations that people have with love on a conditional level.
14. Spiritual Connection
It’s very common for people to report that nature improves their sense of spiritual connection.
Here I’m not talking about any specific religious beliefs you might have, but rather a simple awareness and appreciation for the great mystery behind life.
I’ve known people in many different religions from christians & buddhists to folks who are completely non-religious.
They all say that nature has deepened their sense of connection with the spiritual side of life.
The more you look at nature and connect with the outdoors, the more you sense there must be some kind of intelligent order and truth behind it all.
This might be described as a presence or consciousness behind life that feels somehow alive. Or simply a sense that there’s more beyond life than what we see on the surface.
This can be very healing for people who struggle with faith, or feel incapable of truly living life to the fullest because they’re preoccupied by death.
Questions about the purpose of life gradually become replaced by a feeling of faith and inner peacefulness.
I’d add that nature has no concept of ‘fair’. What is, is. Be it adversity, weather, being the predator or the prey, chance circumstance and fate. There is ultimately no real sense of correctness. Most all species will do anything to survive or to ensure the survival of their offspring. And when it comes to offspring, the having of them – nature teaches that nothing is more important of a driver to actions. It is the one thing that will cause – again most species – the taking of a chance and putting life and limb on the line in order to do. Finally, nature teaches that life will end. That is the natural order.
Brian Mertins says
Thanks! Great additions 🙂
Karen hill says
I really enjoyed this articlu n it is very true. Thak you. Karen Hill
Brian Mertins says