While we all adjust to spending much more time at home, we’re bringing you some interesting and new ways to boost your mood and improve your overall wellbeing. From hands-on craft activities courtesy of some of our fabulous experts, to ways to appreciate nature and practice mindfulness, we’ve got you covered.
We caught up with Ellen from Ellen Mary Gardening, who’s been a Festival fan favourite for six years, and a garden lover since she was a child. Ellen lives and breathes gardening, from content writing, hosting a horticultural radio show on Future Radio, TV presenting and giving talks about gardening.
Ellen has shared her 30 top tips on how to appreciate moments in nature which can positively impact our mental and physical wellbeing.
Time to recalibrate your brain. Some of these actions may seem like you are going back to basics and that’s often completely the point. But they are designed to make you think more in the moment and how it makes you feel. Remember – what do you do with that feeling is what will make the real difference.
- Woodland tracing
Take a walk in woodland with paper and a crayon. Trace the bark of some of the trees and take a fallen leaf to stick on the paper by your tracing. Look closely at the tree, identify it, touch the bark and the leaves. Take the tracing home and put it on your fridge. Each time you look at your tracing, remember how you felt in the woodland, the smells and the air on your face.
- Crossing the road
Before you cross the road, step, look around – what do you see? Make a mental note of any greenery or wildlife. Next time you cross the road compare your mental note – how has nature changed? How has your mindset changed in that moment?
- Your own space
Take a few minutes to sit and think about your own green space, however large or small. How would you like it to look? Visualise the detail, tiny patterns on petals, the sounds of grass, the colours and shapes. How does it make you feel? What do you see?
- Sowing seeds
Be mindful and sow some seeds. Before you do, feel the seeds in your hand. What is the texture, shape, size? Look close at the detail – does each seed differ? Smell them and if they are edible, taste them. Consider the way those tiny seeds become big fruits, vegetables or flowers.
- Get your socks off
Get your socks off! Put your shoes side. Feel liberated by walking outside on the lawn with bare feet or a soft outside surface. The garden, the beach, the spongy woodland floor. Feel the natural negative charge from the earth being absorbed through the soles of your feet. Allow it to happen, accept it. Breathe deeply and relax.
- Herbal tea
Make an herbal tea. Swap out your usual cuppa for a tea made especially for you, by you. Make it with dried flowers or herbs and take your time over every sip. Feel the natural goodness healing your mind, body and soul. Focus on every step, listen to the sound as the water pours, can you hear the movement of the water absorbing the goodness from the herbs?
- A quiet drawing
Find a quiet spot in nature. Take a pencil and paper to sketch what you see. Take 2 minutes or an hour. No one needs to see your sketch, just go for it and see what you can draw. Then really look at your drawing. The feel, your style, the pencil marks on the paper. Why did you choose to draw that scene? Feel the pencil stroke the paper, the sound, the smell of everything around you.
- Rose bath
Fragrant rose petals can be used for so many things but one of the most indulgent is to scatter some of your favourite roses into the bath, sit back and relax. Breathe in the oils from the petals as the steam releases all of the petals’ goodness. Watch the rose petals float, really look at every detail. You can see so much more on those petals if you clear your mind.
- Make a list
Write what you can see in your garden – a list of every single plant, tree, bird. Give yourself a set amount of time and see what you can find. You might be surprised at your list.
- Fallen leaves
Release your inner child and kick around in the fallen leaves. Find the biggest pile you can and run through them, listening to the sound of beneath your feet and feel the breeze on your face. Don’t stop if you can see someone! Just carry on enjoying those leaves. The crunch, lightness, the fun.
- Stretch outside
If you love yoga, you will know it is all the more special outside. If you haven’t tried yoga yet, or perhaps don’t even want to – just try stretching your body outside. Stretching opens our lungs, get blood flowing through our bodies and to our brains. This relaxation helps us to breathe slowly and deeply. When you get to that point, feel the air in your nose, what fragrance can you smell? What can you see? As you stretch, look more intently at a point instead – perhaps a hill or a tree or a bird. You will see so much more when you let go of the tension.
- Tree hug
Hugging trees can bring us so much closer to understanding the planet and how we are all connected. Research has shown when we contact with trees we bring out bodies to a natural balance, allowing us to reset, connect, be. Let’s not forget that we work together with trees so we can all breathe and live on this planet. They deserve a hug, a thank you, some appreciation. They do so much more for us than we can even comprehend and the experience can be truly magical.
- Eating outside
It’s easy to spend a great deal of time inside – why not turn your mind off for a little time to sit outside and eat your meal? Put everything else down apart from what you need to eat and sit in the garden. We’ve forgotten what a sensory experience eating is. Not only can we concentrate on the flavours, the textures and appreciate food, but also as we eat outside, we can make the connection between where our food comes from.
- Look up
Look up. Not just a quick glance, really look up. At any time of the day, the sky is a fascinating mix of patterns and clouds. Even on a grey day when we all want to stay inside, look up at the clouds. That’s nature right there in that big mass of incredible artistry. Watch the sky move, the changes in cloud formation. Look into the droplets of rain on the window and the breeze sweeping through the trees. These are all remarkable works of nature keeping you and our planet alive.
Listening to birdsong has to be one of the most joyous pieces of music to absorb. Bird song is nature’s own music – complex yet simple. Nature’s call to warn, to love, to just be. Tune out of everything else you can hear and listen in to the chirps from our friends in the garden. It can’t fail to make you smile. If you don’t have a garden, you can experience the same joy in a park or local field.
- Edible flowers
Using edible flowers in cooking and baking is so much fun but it also gives us a chance to experience and work with flowers in a whole new way. We admire them in the garden and in the vase but like everything in nature provides so many more benefits, such as nutrition. Some edible flowers even have great nutritional values. Pick petals for colour, taste, fragrance. Rub the petals gently between your fingers. What do they feel like? Are they velvety or silky? Look very closely and focus in on the edges, the curves and the pattern.
- Tree sounds
Listen to the trees. As you walk in woodland or any area with trees we often say it’s lovely and relaxing, but do you properly switch off? When we focus on one aspect of nature we can clear our minds of a great deal of noise so that we can hear what we often inadvertently block out. Take a moment next time to listen, stand still and listen to the trees. What do you hear? It won’t just be the rustle of the leaves. Plus, you will truly be forest bathing. Don’t forget to look up at the forest canopy.
Next time it’s raining, let the rain drip off the end of your nose and watch it fall. Focus on that drip, when you nail it you can literally see inside the drip. If you don’t fancy standing in the rain, it works just as well in the shower. This focus and attention to detail can really help concentration and connection.
Make the most of your time outside and go for a walk near your home. Take your time to appreciate your surroundings, without focusing on the distance that you’ve walked. Try a new route and discover something new on your doorstep!
- Walk & see
Leave the car keys at home and take a walk somewhere instead of driving. Look at every little piece of nature you can find. Even in built up urban environments, nature is there. Growing from cracks in the wall, to drains by the road side, you will spot something that you just can’t see when driving.
- Moss touch
Do you ever look at moss and wonder what’s going on beneath it? It’s like a whole little world all to itself. Next time you see some moss, gently touch it, sweep your fingers over the top and admire the colour and texture. Think about what is living underneath that homely carpet of nature. The bugs are busy living their lives, going about what they do and consider how this all contributes to the planet and our being.
- Life beneath
When you were a child did you ever pick up a large stone and marvel at the life beneath? The woodlice and ants, worms and beetles? We forget that inner child as we grow up and life takes over. Every once in a while revisit those memorable moments when the little things were a world of fascination and awe. They still are, we just have to remember to stay inquisitive and keep looking. What can you see underneath that stone?
- Sunrise and sunset
Do you watch the sunrise and sunset? The changing colours in the sky as we wake or the lowering of the sun as we wind down? Both of these movements are momentous in our lives but we rarely properly absorb them and watch the colours change, the sun going down allowing our body clock to recognise night. Next time the sky is clear take the time to watch this majestic happening and all the better if you focus on both on the same day.
- Have a chat
It is widely known amongst plant lovers that talking to your houseplants can actually help them grow! If it does or doesn’t, one thing is for sure, you will at least have a giggle! Seriously, chatting to your plants is a positive way to connect with them so give it a try.
- Man in the moon
Have you ever seen the man in the moon? We spot full moons due to the brightness but that isn’t the only time to study the surface of the moon. The moon and sun create tides in the ocean with extraordinary gravitational strength. Without it our days would fly by in just a few hours. This force happens as we go about our daily lives but without the man in the moon, life on earth would be very different. Next time you look up, see what patterns you can observe and think about how incredible our universe is.
- Warm summer nights
Pick a warm summers night, wrap up, grab a warm drink and get comfortable under the stars. Tune in to the sounds of the night. While we sleep, so much in the garden is still active. From moths to bats, droplets of water on leaves, the breeze through the leaves and toads enjoying the pond. It can be like a whole new world in the garden at night. It’s enthralling and captivating and will set you up for a good night’s sleep.
- Star constellation
Did you ever stare at the stars as a child and wonder what they are? Glistening in the sky, light years away. It’s really good fun identifying star constellations but if you can’t work out where Orion is, make your own shapes in the sky like a dot-to-dot drawing. There is nothing like looking up in awe at the night sky.
Have you ever just watched a small insect going about its business? If you tune out all of the noise around you and focus in, you can even sometimes hear the scurry of activity happening below your feet. Ants are incredible creatures, spiders spinning webs are fascinatingly clever, and bees buzzing collecting the nectar and helping pollination are great to watch. Just tune out of everything else and focus on the insect world for a few moments.
- Natural materials
Collect some natural materials. Seashells on the seashore or twigs on the forest floor, touching natural materials is sensory and can be emotive. What do you decide to do with them is up to you but think creatively and you’ll come up with something great!
- Climb the mountain
Climb a mountain. Physically, once life begins to return to normal, or metaphorically. Be brave.
Are you trying any of Ellen Mary Gardening’s #30MomentsInNature? We’d love to see your efforts! Tag us and Ellen in your posts – we can’t wait to see what you do!
Follow and find out more about Ellen Mary Gardening:
Website – www.ellenmarygardening.co.uk
Instagram - @EllenMaryGardening
Facebook - @EllenMaryGardening1
Twitter - @EllenMaryGardening
Pinterest – EllenMaryGardening