We are all part of nature, it is within us and around us, and connecting with nature may be integral to our happiness and wellbeing. However in our everyday modern lives, we may have very little contact with nature. Furthermore, when we have the opportunity to be with nature, we may not notice it or take the time to really experience it. This guidance shows you how to use a walk to cultivate awareness of, and a sense of connection with the natural world, and to benefit from the joy, wonder and wellbeing that nature can bring.
What you need
- Any walking aids that are needed.
- Suitable clothing and footwear.
- Probably a bag or rucksack to contain things that may be needed.
- Perhaps a drink and a snack for you both to enjoy.
Guidance and instructions
- Choose a place to walk. Your choice might be influenced by the time of year and the weather on the day. If it’s autumn, is there a woodland walk you can access? If during a rainy period, is there a stream, river or even waterfall you can walk by? Think about the terrain; in warm, dry weather, a wheelchair may be able to access more places than in wet weather. Also think about what environment and what support the person needs to feel safe. For example, do they prefer busy places, enclosed spaces or wide open spaces? Do you need to walk close by, hold hands or allow some safe distance?
- Consider the length of the walk and plan for it to be as long or short as you think the person would like. Be prepared to end the walk and return home or to base if at any time the person is showing that they want or need to.
- Be aware of your own feelings and needs. The way that you feel may affect the feelings of the person. If you feel calm you are more likely to be able to tune into the person’s responses.
- If you are ‘on shift’ or have a time deadline, could you set an alarm so you don’t have to keep checking the time? This may also help you to be completely present, undistracted and able to fully appreciate the simple pleasure of being outside and in nature.
- Go for a walk together. Take notice of what’s happening around you as well as within you. Shift your attention between your own feelings, and tuning in to the person. The person may be very aware of and attuned to what is around them and responding to relatively subtle cues – for example, the feeling of the breeze or sunshine on their cheek, the sight of a dog or light beaming through branches of a tree or the sound of bird song.
- Be led by, and responsive to where the person’s attention is directed, their initiations and reactions.
- Consider the speed at which the person prefers to walk, and notice when they may want to slow down or speed up. Perhaps to pay attention to something that they can see, hear or feel or to get away from something that they do not like.
- Stop and pause to explore specific aspects of your surroundings e.g. to listen to the birds singing, to feel the spray from a waterfall or the feel and rustle of the leaves underfoot.
- You may like to share your own interests too. For example, if you are drawn to the shape of a particular tree, you could point it out and explore it together. You could pick up a pine cone or some bark and feel the texture of it, go foraging for apples and blackberries, or explore the shape, colour and sound of the leaves. (Avoid anything that the person has allergies to).
- Perhaps the person enjoys the stillness of sitting at a park bench, listening to the sound of the trees swaying in the wind, enjoying the bumpy path next to a babbling brook or watching the ducks waddling past.
- You can try this experience during different times of day and try a range of experiences such as a sunrise or sunset, or the night sky.
- Let the person know when the walk is coming to an end and be aware of how they are emotionally and physically before moving on to what they are going to do next.
What to observe, assess and record
- How is the person before the nature walk begins?
- Be aware of subtle changes in your environment and of how the person responds, such as a change in terrain, weather or soundscape (peaceful fields, the sound of wind in the trees, traffic or crowds).
- Notice how the person is interacting with you, any other people you see, the surrounding sights, smells, feelings and sounds.
- How is the person when still and when in motion?
- When you stopped to explore a specific aspect of your surroundings e.g. to listen to the birds singing, feel the leaves underfoot and listen to them rustle, or feel the spray from a waterfall, how did the person respond?
© Rosie Mockford, Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities, Inclusion Gloucestershire
and Julie Calveley, PhD, BSc(Hons) Psychology, BSc(Hons) Nursing, Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities
Email: [email protected]
Created October 2020