Five ways to feel closer to nature – even if you live in the city

Amy Sedghi
Photograph: d3sign/Getty Images

Adapt your routine

Two hours a week spent in nature – even if split into short bursts – has been found to give health and wellbeing a significant boost, according to research by the University of Exeter Medical School. Dr Mathew White, who led the study, suggested that a sense of tranquility could be key. Starting your day with a coffee in the garden, or even near an open window, is a simple way to inspire calm. Going outside during your lunch break or spending a few minutes looking at the night sky before bed are other ideas.

Pay attention to what is around you

Leanne Manchester of the Wildlife Trusts encourages people to take a closer look at plants, trees and even weeds. “Stop to watch bees buzzing around flowers. There’s life everywhere, but it is so easy to miss it; instead, slow down, stop and notice it.” Claire Francis of the charity Sensory Trust says: “Getting outdoors and connecting with nature needn’t involve a five-mile hike.” Jo Phillips, a director of the Forest School Association, suggests looking for “five beautiful things” to engage your senses. “It could be a flower, the clouds, lichen on trees, or the natural light.”

Share in nature

Getting off the bus a stop early or going for a walk during breaks at work are simple ways to increase exposure to nature, says Manchester. If you’re walking with someone, Phillips suggests pointing out elements that have caught your eye, especially if you are with children. “Looking after the planet needs to become a priority, so we should do everything we can to ensure the parents of the future have memorable experiences in nature, so they can pass on that knowledge to their children.”

Find green spaces online

With more than 62,000 urban green spaces in Great Britain, one should never be too far away. The Wildlife Trusts has a searchable online map of its nature reserves, almost all of which have free entry; it also provides a list of accessible nature reserves. Greenspace, a downloadable layer in Ordnance Survey maps, is said to be Britain’s most comprehensive catalogue of green spaces for leisure and recreation.

Bring nature to your window

“For those who can’t get outside, bird boxes close to a window can provide interest all year round, as can growing and nurturing plants on a windowsill,” says Francis. As part of the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild campaign, a pack has been designed to help care home residents feel closer to nature. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds holds its Big Garden Birdwatcheach year, at the end of January.This involves spending an hour observing birds – and you can even do it from a window with a good view.