How to connect with nature in your local park

“Nature is a warm sensory bath that can counterbalance the cold overwhelm of too much activity, information or “stuff”. Time in nature calms and focuses; for most children, it takes only a few minutes for them to begin to explore.” Kim John Payne

The natural world is a treasure trove of wonder and joy, simplicity and calm, intrigue and inspiration. We need only open the door to explore the world right on our doorstep. As adults we often forget just how wonderful the natural world can be for helping us return to a baseline of calm and contentedness. Children remember this though, or at least they are quickly reminded of it when they have the opportunity to ‘be’ outdoors. If we give ourselves the opportunity, we will remember too!

When we spend time outdoors our brains relax, our body calms and we are reminded of the restorative benefits of nature. It’s crucial then, for our minds and bodies, to find time every day to connect with the outdoors and gift ourselves this time in nature. Now more than ever, within the current global climate, it’s important for us to look up from our screens, get out of our offices, classrooms, homes and indoor spaces and bring nature into our daily routine.

Where is your ‘nearby nature’? Where is the closest park to your house or workplace? Do you know your local park or remnant bushland? Answering these questions and grounding yourself in your local neighbourhood will support you to develop connection to these local natural spaces.

Parks are often considered places to walk through, exercise in or a destination to take the kids to play in. They can be so much more if we dedicate a little time to being present in these spaces and shifting our focus around the types of experiences we have in parks.

“Give me the wild children with their bare feet and sparkling eyes. The relentless, churning climbers. The wild ones using their outside voices, singing all the way home. Give me the wonder-filled, glorious mess makers dreaming of mountains and mud, aching to run through a field of stars.” Nicolette Sowder

Plan to visit a park this week, just by yourself, with enough time to truly be present in the space and without the preconceived agenda of needing to exercise or ‘do something’. The suggestions below are perfect to try with children and can help to inspire further creativity outdoors, but we recommend trying them out for yourself – an adventure for adults. They aim to provide space to reframe your purpose outdoors, to reconnect with the intricacies of the natural world and to bring some playfulness into your outdoor adventures. Gift yourself some nature time and witness first-hand the restorative benefits of the outdoors.

  • Listening to the Birds – Even in the built-up concrete jungle of the city, birds are present. Use them to guide your path and follow their sound. Look up, where are the birds going? How far away can you hear their calls? Do their calls sound calm or stressed? Try whistling back.
  • Look for the Little Things in Life – while walking through a local park or natural bushland concentrate on finding small and fascinating natural objects. Focus on the details and explore the intricacies of the world around you.
  • Local Park Leaf Hunt – Western Australia is home to over 550 different Eucalypt species and subspecies of Eucalyptus. Take a moment to try to spot at least 10 different leaf shapes and sizes. Take note of their differences and similarities.
  • Catch the Movement – When we are focussed on getting from Point A to Point B, on a walk or run through a local park, noticing the details around us is difficult. Wander slowly through the space and let your eyes be drawn to movement around you. If you allow your eyes to focus past objects, can you become aware of the small things that move in your space?
  • Early Riser – Dawn is a gorgeous time of day, especially at this time of year. Set the alarm early one day this week and get up before the sun. Head to your local park and experience the space in a new light, literally! Did you know birds sing to welcome the day – it’s known as the Dawn Chorus! The impact of an early morning, witnessing the majesty of the very start of a new day, can have a profoundly positive influence on your mood.
  • Melt into the Earth – When is the last time you laid down on the grass in your local park. Take time to lie down on the grass, sand, leaves or soil beneath you. Feel your body melt into the earth as you take time to rest in nature, releasing exhaustion and stress. Let the earth hold you!
  • The Art of Mindfulness – When children climb a tree, they engage their entire body and mind. Each foot placement, each hand grasp is a complex process requiring precision and presence. Could you try it too? Adults climbing trees… now there’s a new phenomenon.

In our time-poor, busy lives we often overlook the simple things that can contribute so profoundly to our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Reframing our connection with local nature spaces like parks is important if we wish to reconnect with the environment and become more deeply connected human beings. Whether it’s on the way to school or work, on a day out with family or friends or simply spending time at home, there are many ways we can all take time to actively experience nature. So give yourself the gift of a nature experience and get to know your local park!

Ready to spring into parks? Download the 30-Day reBoot and improve your health and happiness by spending time in nature.

Written by Educated by Nature for Spring into Parks, a WA Parks Foundation initiative supported by Chevron.