The Lost Art Of Tuning In – What Trees Can Teach Us – Part 1

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“We will not starve from lack of wonders but from lack of wonder”

Transience and change have featured a great deal over the last several years. Some of the reasons for this we are aware of but perhaps not all. Whether we realise it or not, seeking out and attending to the nature around you – whether in your community garden or further afield – may be one way of finding stability, strength and restoration.

Nature can play an important role in helping us to navigate and remain grounded through the multitude of challenges facing us in a modern society. Indeed, many find that time outdoors, visiting green spaces, and noticing nature helped them to foster a sense of wellbeing, despite other aspects of their world evolving with little predictability (Lombardo, 2021). In addition, a wealth of studies have shown that time in nature can i) decrease our stress levels (Capaldi et al., 2014; Hunter et al., 2019; Stigsdotter, 2010), ii) enhance our mental and emotional health (Engemann et al., 2019; Zalenski & Nisbet, 2014), and iii) assist in alleviating feelings of social isolation (Cartwright et al., 2018). Furthermore, it can also improve our attention and cognitive functioning (Schertz & Berman, 2019; Van Hedger et al., 2019).

With ‘time’ a constant consideration for many as individuals, couples, parents, or working professionals – how can we take the moments that we are able to spare to enhance the restorative effects of nature?

What we know:

  • Connection is key. Noticing nature is linked to higher increases in wellbeing than simply visiting nature. It is clear that the quality of our relationship with nature is integral and this can be further developed by connecting to a certain place or type of nature. ‘Connectedness’ can be described as the way we engage with and experience nature. Think of a strong relationship – a meaningful connection with nature also means experiencing a close affiliation or even an emotional connection with our natural surroundings (Lombardo, 2021).
  • Building our relationship. There are ways that we can develop our connectedness with nature (Lumbar et al, 2017; Richardson, 2021). Think about how you might attempt to build a connection with another, perhaps by listening and really hearing them, or by noticing their changing moods. The same is in fact applicable to our natural environment. Activities that involve the senses can help to build our connection with the natural world. For some of us, even taking a moment to contemplate a personally meaningful place in nature may provide us with similar feelings to actually being there. 
  • Seeking out examples of awe and wonder (however small) in nature. Encountering instances worthy of awe and wonder in our daily life can be tricky but before dismissing the idea consider looking closer to home. Try observing flowers growing or the departing beams of a fiery sunset as if we had never chanced upon it before, for instance, as a child might do. Research shows that encounters of awe and wonder may bring sustained and significant improvements to many common mental health concerns (Richardson, 2021; Shiota, 2021).

The Five Paths to Rekindling our Relationship with Nature (adapted from Richardson, 2021):

In closing, perhaps even consider applying the above guidelines, and your new found skills for improving your connection with nature, to tune in to other relationships too.


Capaldi, C. A., Dopko, R. L., & Zelenski, J. M. (2014). The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 976.

Cartwright, B., White, M. P., & Clitherow, T. J. (2018). Nearby Nature ‘Buffers’ the Effect of Low Social Connectedness on Adult Subjective Wellbeing over the Last 7 Days. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(6), 1238.

Engemann, K., Pedersen, C. B., Arge, L., Tsirogiannis, C., Mortensen, P. B., & Svenning, J. C. (2019). Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(11), 5188–5193.

Hunter, M. R., Gillespie, B. W., & Chen, S. Y. (2019). Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 722.

Lombardo, C. (2021). Mental Health Awareness Week Research Findings. Mental Health Foundation’s Talk back: Connect with nature, pp. 4-5.

Lumber R, Richardson M, Sheffield D (2017) Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to nature connection. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177186.

Richardson, M. (2021, June 16). How can ‘nature connectedness’ improve wellbeing for people and nature?

Schertz, K. E., & Berman, M. G. (2019). Understanding Nature and Its Cognitive Benefits. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 28(5), 496–502.

Shiota M. N. (2021). Awe, wonder, and the human mind. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1501(1), 85–89.

Stigsdotter, U. K., Ekholm, O., Schipperijn, J., Toftager, M., Kamper-Jørgensen, F., & Randrup, T. B. (2010). Health promoting outdoor environments–associations between green space, and health, health-related quality of life and stress based on a Danish national representative survey. Scandinavian journal of public health, 38(4), 411–417.

Van Hedger, S. C., Nusbaum, H. C., Clohisy, L., Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., & Berman, M. G. (2019). Of cricket chirps and car horns: The effect of nature sounds on cognitive performance. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 26(2), 522–530.

Zelenski, J. M., & Nisbet, E. K. (2014). Happiness and Feeling Connected: The Distinct Role of Nature Relatedness. Environment and Behavior, 46(1), 3–23.

Mary Brennan - Provisional Psychologist