Five tips for connecting to nature | WISE ways to lead webinar

Five tips for connecting to nature from social enterprise Hackney Herbal

How can busy social entrepreneurs find time to connect with nature, and what are the benefits of doing so? As part of our WISE Ways to Lead webinar with Natwest last month, we heard from Nat Mady of Hackney Herbal, a social enterprise that promotes wellbeing by connecting people with herbs in creative, nature-based activities. Read on for highlights or watch the full conversation above.

Social entrepeneur Nat Mady centre screen in a garden with a shovel in handWhy spend time in nature? There are “endless reasons”, according to Mady (pictured).

It is something that humans have done for years and years, but now there is evidence to prove its benefits, she added.  

Some of these include reducing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, boosting your immune system, reducing stress and, quite simply, giving your mind a moment to switch off. Spending time outdoors can be especially beneficial, she added, as it exposes us to compounds released by trees which encourage the brain’s production of serotonin (also known as the ‘happy hormone’). 

But there is more than one way we can connect with nature and reap the rewards. Here are some top tips for busy social entrepreneurs.

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1. Engage all your senses

You might feel tempted to put on your headphones and listen to music or a podcast, but this could lessen the impact when you’re spending time in nature, according to Mady.

“It does block out your senses and doesn’t allow you to be as present, as engaged and as intentional as you could be,” she said.

One tip for engaging your senses involves finding a ‘sit-spot’ – a specific location in nature, preferably a place near your home where you can sit down and return to again in the future. The purpose of the sit-spot is to sit in nature and focus on the environment around you, to observe what changes over time with the seasons. While you’re there, explore each of your senses – pick out things that you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste.

“Even taking five or 10 minutes to do that will help you land in that space and connect,” said Mady.

Even taking five or 10 minutes will help you land in that space and connect


2.  Use nature in crafts and cooking

'sun prints' created at hackney herbal - leaves are lain on photographic paper which then turns dark blue while the leaf's silhouette remains whiteHackney Herbal’s workshops help people connect with nature by incorporating plants and other natural materials in creative projects. One such activity involves placing leaves on photographic paper to create ‘sun prints’.

You can also try tasting and cooking with plants and other wild edibles that you find. However, Mady emphasised that you should only do this if you have the knowledge and can safely determine what is edible or medicinal, or what is poisonous. 


3. Touch grass

One highly beneficial activity when outdoors is finding a safe, clean patch of grass, taking off your shoes and socks and walking barefoot. Studies have shown that simply walking barefoot has reflexology benefits and targets pressure points in your feet, Mady said. This can have a stimulating effect and can potentially be good for many of your body’s systems.

“Having your feet on the actual earth helps you feel more grounded and makes for a deeper connection with the grass [and the] earth you’re walking on.”

And, while you may be reluctant to walk barefoot when it’s cold out, that can be especially invigorating.

two pairs of socks and shoes placed on the ground in a field


4. Bring the outdoors to your home 

While there are many benefits to spending time outdoors, public green spaces may not be accessible or safe to some people, especially those with different accessibility needs. But you don’t have to go outside to enjoy nature.

Just as there are plenty of studies documenting the benefits of spending time outdoors, there is also research showing that watching a nature documentary is good for you. “Just seeing greenness, and seeing plants [brings benefits],” said Mady.

“There are lots of these things you can do inside. If you can’t get outside, or can’t go too far, you can do them on your doorstep. You might need to look a bit further, but hopefully you’ll be able to find something if you’re unable to go outside.”

Houseplants are another great way to bring some green indoors. Among the plants recommended are spider plants, money plants, and herbs for those who would like to try growing their own food. And of course, if you’re prone to forgetting to water your plants, cacti and succulents are always a safe option.

There are plenty of studies saying that staying home watching a nature documentary is also really beneficial


5. Appreciate natural beauty every day 

Nat Mady's colleagues at Hackney Herbal taking pictures of a tree in blossomLook for natural beauty in your environment, such as a tree starting to blossom, or even weeds in the cracks of your pavement, said Mady.

“A deciduous tree is a really nice thing to observe throughout the seasons, to see how it changes.”

Mady noted the importance of taking the time to notice things around you, and simply appreciating something beautiful in nature in your everyday life is an excellent way to do this.


Explore the WISE100 Collection for more stories, interviews and resources for women in social enterprise.

All images courtesy Hackney Herbal. 


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