If it's not possible for you to be part of a formal ecotherapy programme, or you don't feel ready to join one, there are still lots of ways for you to enjoy nature by yourself. For example:
Don't worry if some suggestions on this page don't feel right for you – just try to find one or two that do, or adapt one so it feels like something you can manage. These ideas might also help you think of other activities you could try.
Bring nature into your home environment
[I started out] by just finding an empty and unused space in the garden outside my window and tending to it.
- Collect natural materials such as leaves, flowers, feathers, tree bark, seeds, and anything else that you like to decorate your home and use in art projects.
- Create a comfortable space to sit in in your home where you can look out over a view of the sky or a tree.
- Grow plants on your windowsills.
- Take photos of your favourite places in nature and set them as your phone and computer backgrounds.
- Try to do more everyday activities in front of a window so that you can see the sky (for example ironing clothes, chopping vegetables, brushing your teeth, drying dishes or daily exercises).
- Download some recordings of your favourite natural sounds such as birdsong or waves.
Try horticulture at home
- Create a growing space at home. If you don't have a garden, invest in a window box or plant pot and plant some salad leaves or herbs – even keeping a small container on your windowsill can help.
- If you don't have a garden yourself, you could offer to help a neighbour with their garden. If you want to cultivate a vegetable patch, you could suggest you split any food you grow between you, or share a meal together.
- If you have flower beds, try planting some vegetables amongst the flowers. Many varieties of vegetables have attractive flowers for part of the year and might even add to your display.
- Put your name down for an allotment or consider applying to share one.
- Join a local community food growing project if there is one in your area.
- Go fruit picking in the countryside, or find out about urban food foraging and get some tasty food for free. For example, in late summer and early autumn you might find lots of wild blackberry bushes growing in urban spaces, and some of the trees you walk by every day on your street might actually be apple or cherry trees.
Remember: if you're going fruit picking or foraging, be aware that not all wild plants are safe to eat. Make sure you only eat anything you've picked yourself when you're certain you know exactly what it is. If you're not sure, ask an experienced forager to help you.
Get close to animals
I can't always get myself out much so I spend time walking my dogs or just being in my garden. It has helped me to remember that when you strip away all life's complications you are left with the best bits: trees, plants, sky, flowers, animals.
- Go for walks in the countryside by rivers, fields and trees, and look out for wildlife. If you don't live near open countryside, look out for urban wildlife in your local park, such as squirrels, fish, insects, ducks and other birds.
- Visit your local community or city farm. (See the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens website for more information.)
- Go bird watching by yourself or with others.
- Offer to be a pet sitter in your local neighbourhood, volunteer to be a dog walker for a local dog shelter, or ask if you can borrow a friend's dog for occasional evening or weekend walks.
- Think about whether owning a pet would be the right thing for you. Many people find caring for a pet every day brings lots of benefits, but you need to be sure your home environment and personal circumstances would be the right thing for the animal as well as for you. If you don't own your home, it's also important to check if you're allowed to keep pets.
- Hang a bird feeder outside one of your windows. If you have the space you could build a small roosting box on a tree or under a windowsill so that you can watch baby sparrows or blue tits when they leave the nest. (See the RSPB website for more information on feeding and sheltering birds.)
Do your bit for the environment
- Go on a litter picking walk in the park or on the beach.
- Volunteer at an environmental conservation project.
- Plant something outside the front of your home so that everyone who walks by can enjoy it.
- Plant flowers for the bees and berry bushes for the birds in your garden.
- Build an animal habitat – put up a birdbox, create a hedgehog house or create a pond if you have enough space. Even a small pond can offer a home to lots of creatures, such as newts and pond skaters.
Do more activities outdoors
I go and sit by the ocean or in a wood or forest, close my eyes and listen to the sounds [...] Being out in natural environments makes me feel more connected to life and think clearer.
- Build a ten minute walk into your daily routine. If you take any regular walks to work or college, see if you can plan the route so that you take in a local park or river.
- Visit the coast and go beachcombing (searching along the shoreline for interesting things).
- Enjoy an outdoor picnic and include anything you can from your own herb, vegetable or fruit garden.
- If you have a garden, create a space in it that you enjoy sitting in or find a favourite spot in your local park to sit and watch the scenery.
- Sit under a tree in silence for a while, lean back against it and feel it supporting you.
- If you do regular exercise such as running, jogging, tai chi, yoga or chi gong, experiment with doing it in a local park.
- If you usually drive short distances, try to walk, run or cycle instead whenever possible. (To plan a route, visit the Sustrans website.)
- Suggest to a friend that you go for regular walks together; if you can, find routes that have nice cafes so you can sit and appreciate a beautiful view. (Visit the National Trust's website for ideas.)
- Give yourself a sensory outdoor workout – find things to look at, listen to, taste, smell and touch. For inspiration see the Let Nature Feed Your Senses website.
Remember: if you're planning on heading out on your own for much longer than you usually would, or walking somewhere you don't know well, keep your safety in mind:
- Let someone know where you're going, and when you plan to be back.
- Take your phone with you, and make sure it's fully charged.
This information was published in October 2015. We will revise it in 2018.