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 house plant.
5-15 minutes per day for two weeks. Eventually you could incorporate this practice into your daily routine.
Passmore, H. A., & Holder, M. D. (2016). Noticing nature: Individual and social benefits of a two-week intervention. Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(6), 537-546.
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.
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