What nature connection has done for me
This is a personal journey through the Covid-19 lockdown that illustrates how regular engagement and immersion in nature can benefit wellbeing. The bird photos featured here were all taken by the Tracy, highlighting a wonderful talent she didn’t know she had.
My name is Tracy and this is my story.
When lockdown started I felt pretty anxious, along with everyone else.
I’ve got an underlying health issue and so my workplace told me to stay at home. Suddenly my focus was purely on my home and garden and I began to spend more time outside in the garden than I had done for years. I became aware of how the sun moved around the garden during the day and would make sure I was sitting in a particular place at about the same time, to enjoy the warmth from the sun that soothed me and helped me relax.
Then I began to notice more about the birds that visited the garden. We get a lot of Starlings and I’d never paid them any attention. However, because I was now regularly sitting still in the garden, focussing my attention on what was there, I began to notice the iridescent colours on the Starlings and realised they were in fact quite beautiful birds.
Slow down and build awareness
My husband found an old digital camera for me to use and I photographed the Starlings, noticing how in certain light their colours lit-up really brightly. Later, looking at the photos I’d taken, I felt excitement and delight that really lit up my day. I was hooked…
I began spending more and more time out in the garden waiting for birds to arrive to be photographed.
I then began taking an interest in how we could improve the garden to attract more birds, butterflies and other creatures. I was learning new skills and it felt really good and boosted my morale. Feelings of my life being diminished by the Covid-19 were reduced, replaced by an eagerness to learn more about looking after nature and also photography.
We found ‘The Butterfly Count’ online, downloaded the spotter sheet and contributed to the national annual study. We also read about how building a wild meadow in your garden could help the bees and butterflies, so we set about creating one.
Rebuilding confidence to fly
As the Covid-19 situation went on I was beginning to feel anxious about leaving the house at all, so I realised I needed to work on this, particularly as I was going to have to return to work at some point.
I started taking myself to Stanwick Lakes for a walk around 5.30 – 6.00 a.m. so that I wouldn’t see anyone else. Doing my early morning walks really improved my mental health and I know they also contributed to my feeling more confident to be able to leave the house at other times.
I know that connecting with nature has been key to boosting my mental health and I’d strongly recommend getting out regularly into nature. Actually immersing yourself in the natural world, focussing on what’s around you rather than just walking through it. Taking notice of the details in nature is key to feeling better in yourself mentally and physically.
Slow down and notice things
I took a camera with me on my walks, focussing my attention on looking for interesting things to photograph. You could just as easily use your phone to take photos, or maybe take a sketch pad with you to make you slow down, stop and take more notice.
When you bring your full attention to what you notice in nature you’ll find it quietens the mind, stopping the incessant whirring. Regular nature immersion, savouring the experience, can really help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety that you may be carrying around with you.
I’ve now restarted work but I still keep up my nature connection activites. I take a lot of photos and have even set up an instagram account where I share them.
To my astonishment (and delight) I’ve recently won a competition for my photo of a Goldfinch. I can’t tell you how that made me feel, but it feels good.