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How to reconnect with nature

Planet Patrol’s mission is to eliminate single-use materials and reconnect people with nature. We believe that forging a connection with nature is one of the first steps to changing human behaviours towards more sustainable lifestyles.

A positive experience in nature -> valuing nature -> caring -> wanting to protect nature and share it with others -> positive action -> change and greater protection of nature.

Planet Patrol’s runs clean ups internationally, combined with activities like paddleboarding, canoeing, yoga and running as well as community litter picks. People record every piece of litter found in our free app, adding to a growing global database analysed by scientists to uncover trends, patterns and potential solutions. Combining adventurous activities with litter picking provides opportunities to explore nature in a unique and memorable way whilst meeting like-minded people. Once seen, plastic pollution cannot be unseen. The act of collecting and recording litter via the app creates self-awareness and personal association with the problem, instilling a sense of responsibility.

The benefits of taking part in clean ups are clear, with participant feeding highlighting positive impacts including: “positivity”, “part of a changemaking community”, “optimism”, “considerably improved mental health”, “feeling proud” and “connectedness”.

Connecting with nature in our day-to-day

But how can we connect more with nature in our day to day lives, and encourage others to do the same? Planet Patrol Community Guardian for South East Wales, Kate Weston, explores this topic and shares her top tips:

In a challenging and chaotic world, nature bring us moments of quiet, peace and wild joy. Many may had forgotten all that happiness nature can bring if we only take the time to let it. We now have the choice to connect with nature once more.

As a society, we have become increasing urbanised and industrialised. Recent polls suggest we spend three and a half hours a day looking at TV screens, at least four hours on laptops, and over two hours on mobile phones.[1] Technology is of course a wonderful thing, it’s connected us with loved ones in a time where we otherwise could not. But it is important to also look up to the world around us. Currently 77% of the population live in built-up, urban spaces [1] so actively connecting with nature is becoming increasingly important. There’s been a lot of research showing how a life indoors and away from nature is linked to both mental and physical illness, but spending 120 minutes in nature each week has been linked to good health and wellbeing. Green spaces have been linked in many studies to a decrease in depression, anxiety, heart disease diabetes, asthma and migraines.[2]

Sometimes going for a walk is just not possible, but there are still ways to let nature in. It has been shown that just being able to look at trees out of a window relates to faster recovery in hospitals, better school performances and even less violent behaviour – which have all been linked to reduced stress[3].

So how do we reconnect with nature? Of course, getting outdoors is a simple and easy step to take. If you find your motivation lacking why not try one of these for starters:

  1. Set yourself a time goal

    Start with something small, like a 10-15 min walk around the local park and build it up. You’ll be surprised with how quickly the time passes! The NHS suggests 150 minutes of activity per week – this could be just a 10 min brisk walk a day![5]

  2. Set yourself a step goal

    The goal can be as big or as small as you like. But as a goal why not try 8-10,000 steps a day? This will help you achieve those 150 mins of activity.

  3. Get out and about during your lunch breaks

    Whether you’re working from home or in the office, getting out of your workspace and into the fresh air will not only give you a welcome break, it might increase attention span and short term memory![3]

  4. Make going outside a social event.

    If local COVID restrictions allow, go on a walk with a friend. If they don’t, you could set up an online group where you all aim to go on walks at the same time or you just support each other in achieving your time or step goal. You can even get creative with it, if you’re a competitive bunch why not start a step-count race? If you want something a bit more relaxed why not challenge your friends to capture a photograph on each walk? It could be anything, (a bird, sunrise / sunset, hilltop views) and this way you can share your experiences with each other as well as getting those endorphins going! Of course, we also always encourage that you record any litter you find in the Planet Patrol app!

  5. Get your hands dirty and create a home for nature on your doorstep.

    All sorts of creatures need a home. Why not try making your very own bug hotel by stacking wooden pallets, bricks, pipes or other natural materials? Hedgehogs and small mammals love a cosy log to sleep under – cover a tray with twigs and leaves and you never know who your next guest could be![6]

  6. Make your garden or windowsill a little more nature friendly

    Grow bee friendly plants, put out a bird box and feeder or start a compost heap then just sit back and relax as nature comes to you![7]

  7. Arrange or attend a Planet Patrol litter pick

    Unfortunately, with an increase in outdoor usage often comes an increase in litter. While you’re out and about enjoying nature, why not give back and pick up some litter? Volunteering your time with something as simple as a litter pick not only benefits the environment by clearing out space, helping wildlife find a more suitable home and creates a better, safer space for people too. Litter picks also a boost for your mental health by spending more time in nature, connecting with likeminded people and knowing you’ve made a real difference to the environment. Download the free Planet Patrol app and log the litter you see to help us drive global changes at both community and governmental level.

There’s no denying natures benefit to our health. Whether you’re an all-weather walker, or a garden bird watcher, nature provides us with a perfect opportunity for a little self-care. When you’re out and about follow this simple rule “leave nothing but footprints”.

Take a moment, take breath of fresh air and fill yourself with all the positivity nature brings.

References:

  1. E. Elsworthy, “AVERAGE ADULT WILL SPEND 34 YEARS OF THEIR LIFE LOOKING AT SCREENS, POLL CLAIMS,” Independent, 11 May 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/news/screen-time-average-lifetime-years-phone-laptop-tv-a9508751.html. [Accessed 02 January 2021].
  2. K. Moses. [Online]. Available: https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/explore-rewilding/people-and-rewilding/reconnecting-with-nature.
  3. Mathew White et al., “Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing,” Scientific Reports, vol. 9, 13 June 2019.
  4. F. WILLIAMS, “This Is Your Brain on Nature,” National Geographic, [Online]. Available: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/. [Accessed 2 January 2021].
  5. NHS, “Exercise,” 2019 October 08. [Online]. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/. [Accessed 2021 January 02].
  6. National Trust, “Make a home for wildlife,” [Online]. Available: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/no-36-make-a-home-for-wildlife. [Accessed 02 January 2021].
  7. National Trust, “Nine ways to build a wildlife friendly garden,” [Online]. Available: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/nine-ways-to-build-a-wildlife-friendly-garden. [Accessed 02 January 2021].

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