The Hidden Benefits of Connecting with Nature

The Hidden Benefits of Connecting with Nature

Benefits of Connecting with Nature - World Threads Traveler. Young caucasian individual laying in tall green grass with pine trees and a pond in the background. One foot is up in the air. They are connecting with nature


There are numerous benefits to connecting with nature including our physical and mental health, as well as for our overall well-being. Even test scores and productivity can increase. However, despite the many benefits of spending time in nature, many people struggle to access outdoor spaces and opportunities to connect with the natural world. But recently science has shown us that something as simple as listening to nature sounds can have similar benefits. Let’s dive into the benefits of connecting with nature, the issues with access that some people face, and ways to make it easier to connect with the natural world.

Benefits of Connecting with Nature

One of the main benefits of connecting with nature is that it can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Spending time in nature has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase feelings of relaxation and peacefulness. Additionally, nature can have a positive impact on mental health. Exposure to green spaces has been associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, and has also been shown to improve attention and concentration. 

One study found that spending just 5 minutes a day outside improved both mood and self-esteem. And a research review showed evidence that “contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental health.”

Beyond just mental health, connecting with nature also has numerous physical health benefits. Spending time outdoors has been linked to increased levels of physical activity, which can improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes, and even improve bone health. 

(Read More: Empathy for Earth) 

Benefits of Connecting with Nature World Threads Traveler. Photo of Central Park in New York City during the summer. Benches on the left side with multiple tall green trees and lamp posts flanking the right side

Barriers to Access

Despite the many benefits of connecting with nature, some people face barriers to accessing outdoor spaces and opportunities. These barriers can include living in urban areas with limited green spaces, lack of access to transportation, and even financial constraints.

To overcome these barriers, there are a number of things that can be done. For example, finding ways to incorporate nature into daily activities like walking or biking to work can make it easier to spend time in nature on a regular basis. Additionally, many cities and towns have public parks and gardens that can serve as accessible outdoor spaces for those who live in more urban areas. Community gardens, nature preserves, and hiking trails can also be great options for connecting with nature.

Another way to connect to nature can be done through something called nature relatedness. This can include watching a movie or show that depicts a diverse mix of flora and fauna, listening to water or other natural sounds, or viewing art that centers around the natural world. A comparison between individuals who walked outside to those in urban settings who watched nature videos found “that any exposure to nature – in person or via video – led to improvise n attention, positive emotions and the ability to reflect on a life problem.”

Benefits of Connecting with Nature World Threads Traveler - 10 hands of different ethnicities all places on a tree trunk.

A few ways to connect with nature

  • Take a hike or a walk in a nearby park or nature trail.
  • Visit a local botanical garden or arboretum.
  • Spend time in your own backyard or local green spaces observing birds, insects, and other small wildlife.
  • Start a garden or grow your own herbs or vegetables.
  • Spend some time looking at the clouds or stars
  • Enjoy a picnic in a natural area.
  • Take a day trip to a nearby nature reserve or conservation area.
  • Go for a swim or paddle in a nearby lake, river or ocean.
  • Volunteer for a local conservation or clean-up project.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation in a natural setting.
  • Attend a nature photography or sketching class.
  • Camping or backpacking trip
  • Go for birdwatching or wildlife spotting.
  • Watch a nature documentary.
  • Listen to the sounds of nature.
  • Change your computer home screen to one that depicts diverse flora and fauna.
  • Compare blades of grass or leaves.
  • Take 5 minutes a day deeply breathing outside.

Spending just 5 minutes a day outside or immersed in a nature based activity has immense physical and mental benefits. Connecting to nature also helps us to create a more sustainable future (Listen: Guilty GreenieGreenpathy with Psychologist Troy Jackson) through empathetic acknowledgement of our innate connection to the planet and one another. It’s a win-win for all. 

What are some ways you go about connecting with nature?

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Empathy for Earth – Can Empathy Save Us

Empathy for Earth – Can Empathy Save Us

Caucasian woman in a white long tshirt with dark hair is sitting on a brown tinged hill looking at mountains in the distance. Article about empathy for the earth


The importance of empathy towards the natural world cannot be overstated when it comes to addressing climate change and living sustainably. When we feel connected to and concerned about the environment, taking steps to reduce our own environmental impact and supporting policies that address climate change are greater. Some scientists contend that the likelihood of recycling, using public transportation, and reducing energy consumption might be higher for people who feel more empathy for the natural world. 

While individual actions are important, empathy can also help create a sense of shared responsibility for the well-being of the earth and future generations. Empathy can motivate us to take individual action and build support for collective action on environmental issues. By connecting with and feeling concern for the natural world, we are more likely to back policies that reduce negative impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions, protect natural areas and support sustainable development. This is essential in order to generate the political will and public support necessary to tackle climate change on a large scale.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is different from sympathy or compassion; it involves understanding and responding appropriately to another person’s emotional state and being able to relate to their point of view. It is both emotional and cognitive. Sympathy on the other hand is often described as feeling sorry for someone while compassion is the desire to help someone who is suffering. 

Empathy is an important component of social relationships and is thought to be an important factor in promoting prosocial behavior, such as helping others and resolving conflicts peacefully. It is also related to feelings of compassion and to the ability to take on the perspective of others. Some research suggests that empathy can be enhanced through training and that it is associated with a range of positive outcomes, including improved social relationships and mental health.

empathy for earth. A pair of hands out stretched holding a single yellow flower pressed between them

How to Build Empathy

Practice mindfulness:

Being present in the moment and paying attention to your own feelings and the feelings of others can help you become more attuned to emotions and increase your empathy. This same mindfulness can be applied to our relationship with the natural world. By taking time to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the natural world, we can cultivate a sense of connection and empathy.

Seek out diverse experiences:

Exposing yourself to different perspectives and cultures can broaden your understanding of the world and help you build empathy. The same is true for our relationship with the natural world. By exploring different ecosystems and learning about the diverse array of plants and animals that inhabit them, we can develop a greater appreciation for the complexity and interconnectedness of the natural world.

Engage in perspective-taking: Try to imagine how other living beings might feel in a particular situation. This can help you understand their perspective and build empathy. For example, consider how a bird might feel as its habitat is destroyed by development, or how a fish might feel as it is caught in a net.

Put yourself in the shoes of the natural world:

Try to imagine what it would be like to be a part of the natural world, and consider how you would feel and react in that situation. For example, imagine how you would feel if you were a tree that was being cut down, or a stream that was being polluted.

Practice active listening:

Pay attention to the concerns and experiences of others, and try to understand their perspective. This can be especially valuable when it comes to learning about the impacts of climate change on different communities and ecosystems. By listening to the stories of those who are already experiencing the effects of climate change, we can build empathy and gain a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.

Empathy for Earth – Moving Forward

It is important to recognize the fluidity of empathy in time and place. Different societies have different empathies towards nature based on emotions, shared histories, and different values. Yet to foster stronger emotional awareness and collective action, particularly as it pertains to climate change, through empathy we will need to move beyond the local into the national and global scene. 


Through the cultivation of global empathy for the natural world – past, present, and future – we can become more motivated to take action to protect the environment and address climate change. By practicing mindfulness, seeking out diverse experiences, engaging in perspective-taking, putting ourselves in the shoes of the natural world, and actively listening to the concerns of others, we can build and strengthen our personal empathy and work towards a more sustainable future for all. 

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