5-15 minutes per day for two weeks. Eventually you could incorporate this practice into your daily routine.
How to Do It
- Be mindful of the natural elements and objects around you on a daily basis (e.g., trees, clouds, leaves, the moon, moving water, animals, etc.), and notice how these make you feel and what emotions they evoke. Take a moment to allow yourself to truly experience the nature around you.
- When you encounter a natural object, element, or scene that evokes a strong emotion in you, that moves you in some way, take a photo of it. If possible, upload the photo to your computer, or even to a blog if you have one. Along with the photo, jot down a brief description of what prompted you to take it and how this nature scene made you feel, in a few words or a few sentences.
- You can take as many photos as you like, but try to take at least 10 photos over the course of two weeks. Be mindful of how the nature you encounter makes you feel on a daily basis, but space the photos out on different days.
- Remember: What is key is your experience with what you are photographing—how nature makes you feel. Don’t worry too much about the quality of the photos or how creative they are.
Why You Should Try It
Our surroundings can impact our well-being for better or worse, but we’re not always aware of these effects. This practice asks you to pay attention in particular to the feelings evoked by nature. Research suggests that people often feel positive emotions like awe, connectedness, and hope in natural settings, and taking time to acknowledge these feelings can strengthen them.
For this practice, you don’t have to budget extra time to spend outdoors; just notice the nature that’s already in your life, whether it’s a scenic view from your window, a park down the street, or a houseplant.
Evidence That It Works
Passmore, H. A. & Holder, M. D. (2016). Noticing nature: Individual and social benefits of a two-week intervention. Journal of Positive Psychology.
For two weeks, some participants took photos of nature scenes that evoked strong emotion in them, then wrote a description of those feelings; others took photos of human-built environments or went about their lives as usual. Afterward, they answered survey questions about their feelings and values. Compared to the other groups, the participants who focused on nature reported feeling more positive emotions and elevation (a sense of awe, inspiration, and transcendence) recently, being kinder and more helpful toward other people, and feeling a greater sense of connectedness to others and the world around them.
Why It Works
Some researchers believe that humans evolved to feel attached and drawn to natural scenes. In our busy world, nature may help us recharge by capturing our attention gently and effortlessly, the way we’re mesmerized by the rays of the sun or delighted by the crunch of fall leaves. Other researchers theorize that the calming influence of nature reduces our distress and sense of isolation. When we notice the nature around us, we can tap into its profound benefits.
And you don’t have to be a nature lover to reap the advantages; according to research, the Noticing Nature practice is just as beneficial for people who don’t feel a sense of kinship or oneness with the environment.
Holli-Anne Passmore, M.A., University of British Columbia
Nature is one of the most common sources of awe. Could your life be more awe-some? Take our Awe Quiz to find out: