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Taking Notice of Our Surroundings

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

In a world where we are so overstimulated by information, news, videos, photos, work and family life, many of us find it almost impossible to slow down and take notice of what is around us.

We often follow the same route, be it going to work, school or the shops. Yet when we think about it, what do we recall about these 'familiar' places? It can be all too easy of overlook what is right in front of us.

I have always had an immense love of the world around me. I know that part of it was from being fortunate enough to have had a garden and parents who loved spending time in it. As a result, I had no fear of getting my hands dirty and witnessed the interaction of nature, be it insects munching on part of the veg patch or the birds eagerly eating the earthworms as soon as the soil had been turned.

However, for large parts of my adult life, whilst the love never disappeared and the deep connection was always there but whilst out hiking, I didn't really acknowledge the flora and fauna I was passing.

Slowing down is something that can be very difficult for many of it, simply because we are 'meant to be busy, successful, achieving' or of course, between working and looking after children, it can feel like an impossible task.

When we do relax, this time is likely to be filled by inane activities where we don't need to think such as binge watching the latest show or inanely scrolling through videos of cats.

Unfortunately, all of this can create short and long term issues on our well-being. Taking time to be present and center ourselves can have positive impacts such as relieving stress, lowering blood pressure and improving sleep.

This doesn't mean that we need to dig out the incense sticks and sit in an empty room attempting to meditate (not that there is any issue with this!).

In more recent years, I have come to realise that in the same way that we get so much more out of relationships with people by spending time getting to know them, a greater understanding of our non-human neighbours, be it plants, animals, fungi will help us to provide a much richer experience in our daily lives.

As a happy coincidence, getting outside and starting to focus on what's around us brings us right into the present moment.

"Mindfulness...puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective.”

If we compare the numbers and diversity of species that were around 20+ years ago, there has been a significant decline, UK endangered species, and on top of that, fewer people are familiar with species found around them. Whilst the following quote is based on the USA, I would not think that the UK is significantly different.

This is also something that Robert MacFarlane had noticed and resulted in him writing The Lost Words "The Lost Words is a ‘book of spells’ along with the stunning illustrator, Jackie Morris, that seeks to conjure back the near-lost magic and strangeness of the nature that surrounds us."

"Children today can recognise 100 corporate logos and fewer than 10 plants." - Robin Wall Kimmerer

Just as Robert describes, there is a magic and strangeness of nature. Being human, there is a lot we won't understand about nature, but there is a lot we can do to get to know it better and therefore understand why things grow where and how they do or make certain calls at given times of year.

There are different ways in which we can either start or get even closer to nature. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Get outside! It sounds obvious, but the next time you are outdoors, slow down and take a look at what is there. It doesn't matter if you don't know what species things are. Start by observing colours, textures, smells. Listen to the noises you hear amongst the cars and the human voices.

  • Join a nature walk - try to find local groups via meetup, FaceBook or the like. This takes the pressure off as you will have an expert with you to point things out and tell you about what you are seeing.

  • Start a Nature Journal - This can be daunting, but it really doesn't have to be. It can simply start off by being a list of observations.

  • Visit a Nature Reserve - go online and discover a nature reserve near you, or further afield. Some of them will offer talks and guided walks. Wildlife Trust NRs RSPB reserves

  • Use online ID apps - there are now so many out there including the Woodland Trust tree ID app and the RSPB identifier.

Whatever you do, start now and observe how it makes you feel.


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