One of my dreams in life is to be able to open my curtains and look out on to a view of green fields without another house in sight.
Where this plan falls over is I actually love living in London. I really like being able to nip out to a coffee shop and having a choice of which one I go to all in a 5 minute radius. I like going to the theatre, galleries, street food markets and generally feeling like I have a choice in what I do. I’ve built up friendship groups here, a career and now I’m starting to make friends through my son’s nursery and build a family life here too.
I spent nearly every weekend in my early years in the Peak District and I think it must have been then that the need for green seeped into my bones. I like wild open spaces and not being able to see another soul in sight. I enjoy the feeling of insignificance realising there is something much more powerful than yourself. And just so you realise how much of a nature lover I am, yes, I have hugged a tree. You should try it.
I’ve learnt over the years that I need to create a balance between my city lifestyle and need for nature. It’s hard to describe the feeling but without it, I’m like a little plant that shrivels up without sunlight. This is why I’ve found ways to still connect with nature even though I live in a city.
How nature impacts our wellbeing
Research shows I’m not the only one who feels a boost in wellbeing around nature.
Studies from back in the 1980s showed that patients in a hospital room which looked out on to greenery recovered from surgery quicker than patients who didn’t.
It’s not just our physical health but our mental wellbeing too with research from the University of Derby for the Wildlife Trust showing nature makes us happier too.
As much as research tells us, we should surround ourselves with nature, it’s not always possible to up sticks and move to a more rural part of the country. For some of us, our families, friends and livelihoods are in cities and there are elements of this way of living we enjoy.
This is why we need to be mindful of making sure we do get the balance right and still connect ourselves with nature even though we live in a city.
Here are some ideas to help.
6 ways to connect with nature when you live in a city
1. Find local parks close to your home and work
Thank you Nicky for that most basic piece of advice I hear you inwardly sigh. However, please bear with me. A study by Fields in Trust shows there is a direct impact between spending time in parks and your physical health.
The good thing about London is you don’t have to walk too far to find a spot of greenery even in the financial district. Someone once they were old plague pits and that’s why they can never be developed – however, google hasn’t confirmed either way if that’s true.
Decent parks aren’t just confined to London either. Sheffield, my home town has plenty of green spaces (greenest city in Europe FYI) so it’s worth reaching them out wherever you are.
I personally like a more unkempt space than your usual well-manicured Victorian affair. If you’re in the UK, the Wildlife Trust have information on nature reserves. They also offer volunteer opportunities too.
2. Treat yourself to some plants
One of my biggest light bulb moments in my adult life was realising most of my plants died because I overwatered them and not from drought.
Look at the top soil and check if it’s dry. Only water, if it is. You will thank me.
Gardening tips aside, even the smallest of spaces can handle a few plants indoors. If you have a garden or some outdoor space then even better.
House plants have a really boost to our wellbeing and are even said to help us recover quicker from illnesses.
3. Visit botanical gardens and garden centres
If you told younger me, I’d get my kicks from visiting my local garden centre, I’d have laughed in your face before hotstepping it onto the nearest dance floor.
TBF though, my local garden centre looks like it’s been designed by Pinterest. It’s incredible.
I also really love visiting botanical gardens and there tend to be some brilliant ones in larger cities such as the one in Cambridge shown in the photo above. There is something about being in a botanical garden that immediately relaxes you and makes you feel calmer.
4. Become more aware of your eco-system
It’s becoming increasingly easier to forget where our food comes from. We buy it pre-packaged, pre-prepared and without a trace of earth. It’s not always possible because of time, money and outdoor space to be able to grow our own food or buy organic fruit and vegetables from farmer’s markets. However, I do think it’s good to be mindful of where our food comes from.
Do you need to buy pre-chopped apples sealed in a plastic bag or could you just buy an apple?
5. Look around you
I was once staring out of a meeting room and saw a beekeeper stood on a roof tending to his hives. I never knew people were making honey right in the city of London.
It’s worth making an effort to unplug from your phone and look around you. Once you get into the habit, you start to notice communal vegetable gardens in blocks of flats, allotments slap bang in the middle of cities and observe wildlife around you too.
6. Stand in bare feet on the ground
There’s a theory known as grounding where you feel more connected to the energy of the earth when you stand in your bare feet.
In our modern times, I don’t know if it’s more to do with the fact we’re used to wearing shoes so there’s a novelty effect? What I do know is, as soon as I’m on a beach, the first thing I do is take my shoes off and walk barefoot in the sand. There’s something very freeing about it. I also love standing barefoot in my garden whilst I potter around watering the plants. So the next time you’re in the park, give grounding a go.