Do you remember how you felt at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown this year? Here at Joyful Nature the initial response to ‘freeze’ while the ground shifted beneath us was quickly replaced by a strong desire to connect: to connect with the people we love and care about and also to connect with the natural world.
This was such a strong feeling that it rapidly transformed into a community project: the UK went into lockdown on the 23rd of March and our Noticing Nature Community was launched the very next day.
The aim of the community was to help us stay connected to each other and to nature during these times of uncertainty and worry. When we stripped it right back to the fundamentals, we realised that, even in amongst all the uncertainty in the world, two things remained constant: (1) the feel-good feelings we get from noticing nature, and (2) knowing there are folks out there who love and care for us.
We invited people to be part of this community as a way of showing how we can all support and care for ourselves and each other, and – importantly – support and care for the natural world.
We actively ran the Noticing Nature Community for 67 days – right up until the lockdown restrictions began to be eased and people could go further than their immediate area and meet up with others outside.
Today we are excited to publish our report: ‘Noticing Nature Community: Joyful Nature’s Covid-19 lockdown community initiative’.
We are very pleased to share the outcomes of this initiative. It showcases our approach as a simple and effective way of putting the research about the value and importance of connecting with nature (both for ourselves and the planet) into practice.
Before we tell you more, we want to express a huge THANK YOU to all of our community members! Your engagement and enthusiasm means so much to us.
The report describes what we did, how our community experienced and engaged with nature and each other, and the many benefits for their wellbeing that they identified from taking part.
This initiative highlights how anyone can notice nature:
- You can do it very locally, wherever you live, and even from your home
- You can notice as part of your daily routines and activities
- You don’t need to be a nature ‘expert’ to lead or participate in a nature noticing community
Benefits for the group members:
- Noticing and appreciating the nature on their doorstep
- Supporting and enhancing their wellbeing
- Finding meaning in nature
- Sharing knowledge and appreciation for nature
- Supporting nature connectedness (i.e. their experiences in, and relationships with, nature)
We so enjoyed running and holding space for this online Facebook group. It was great to see what people were noticing in the natural world each day, whether through spending time outside, from inside their homes looking out, or attending to elements of nature in their homes (in this case mainly houseplants and pets!). It really emphasised how experiencing nature doesn’t have to involve climbing mountains or camping in the wilderness – a shift of perspective which we feel is so important in opening up engagement with nature beyond traditional narratives and imagery.
People experienced as much joy and pleasure from noticing physically small and seemingly insignificant aspects of nature (such as rain droplets and leaf textures) as they did the wider vistas of a woodland landscape and a dramatic evening sky.
Their descriptions of how these interactions with aspects of nature helped to support their wellbeing, particularly at a time of such uncertainty and isolation, were both heartfelt and heart-warming.
One particularly lovely outcome was how being part of the group supported and encouraged members in their nature noticing practice. In addition to their daily engagement with nature, the group, although virtual, provided a sense of community at a time of social isolation, and a sense of connection to each other, as well as to nature, through their shared practice of nature noticing.
Whilst we established and supported our Noticing Nature Community in response to the Covid-19 lockdown, there are clearly many other times and situations when such an initiative could provide support to different communities of people.
Looking ahead, we want to disseminate and build on this work, as a simple, no/low cost approach to connecting people with nature and with each other. We’re keen to explore applying this to other ‘communities’ of people (and possibly get a bit of funding support to do so!).
Please do get in touch if you’d like to find out more, help or work with us to reach and engage with other individuals and communities.
We’ll finish off with a quote from one of Bunny’s favourite authors – the nature writer and poet Kathleen Jamie – which conveys the fundamental importance of cultivating a practice of noticing nature in as many people as we can:
“When we read and write, when we love our fellow creatures, when we walk on the beach, when we just listen and notice, we are not little cogs in the machine, but part of the remedy.” (Antlers of Water, 2020).
Only by reconnecting with nature, and developing relationships of empathy, care and respect for all elements of the natural world, will we all flourish now, and in the years to come.