Bonding with biodiversity: 5 tips to deepen your connection to nature

Bonding with biodiversity

5 tips to deepen your connection to nature

Bonding with biodiversity

5 tips to deepen your connection to nature

By Emily Jerome, Digital Engagement Assistant, National Environmental Treasure

We’re intuitively drawn to nature and long for connection with other species. Learn how you can bond with biodiversity with these 5 tips.

Humans are instinctively drawn to nature and seek connection with other life forms. We long to stand amongst the red cedars cloaked in intricate tangles of lichen and moss and listen to the steady gurgling of brooks as they navigate along the fern blanketed forest floor. We are delighted by the unexpected leaps of grasshoppers and soothed by the rhythmic swaying of tall grasses and wildflowers in a fresh breeze. The question is, why do humans gravitate towards nature? The biophilia hypothesis, developed by American biologist and writer E.O. Wilson, describes the innate emotional connection with nature ingrained in the human condition as a product of evolution. Yet we are often faced with opposing forces as we switch on Netflix, type in our credit card numbers at the checkout, plug in our earphones and neglect this inherent need to affiliate with nature.

With this in mind, there are five tips that have led to a deeper connection with nature in my own life and a more profound understanding of the beautiful complexities of biodiversity. By tapping into your higher awareness while in nature, you too may open a wider sense of wonder for the world and allow your biophilia to flourish. 

While it’s great to gab with friends or walk with your fluffy family member, it’s important to set time aside for exploring natural spaces on one’s own. By doing so, you are able to fully immerse yourself into the experience by being more aware of your surroundings. Let your own curiosity guide you; go take a closer look at how the frost is growing out in sharp spears from the bare dogwood branches or watch how the mallard ducks energetically preens each feather. Exploring by yourself may feel uncomfortable or awkward at first, but as you become more familiar with a place and start to recognize the biodiversity, it becomes a meditative practice. You are your own guide and curate your own unique experience as you put one foot in front of the other.

Person walking in forest with tall yellow trees
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

2. Simply stop and see what you notice

Find a spot to sit in a meadow or a place to stand below the forest canopy and see what life stirs around you. Little movements here and there will start to catch your eye; subtleties that probably would have evaded your awareness otherwise. The other day, I was walking through an inner city park and I couldn’t spot a single bird. I reminded myself of this simple trick and stopped in the thicket of a trembling aspen forest. Moments later, a brown creeper, a small song bird, appeared on a neighbouring tree as it scaled up and down the bark. On my left, I caught a glimpse of a downy woodpecker chiselling at a knot in the tree and then a flurry of black-capped chickadees surrounded me with their gleeful calls. Instead of searching for what you’re looking for, stop and see if it comes to you. Biodiversity is always alive and active, but to recognize it, we just need to heighten our awareness through giving ourselves the time to slow down.

Brown creeper song bird on moss covered tree
Photo by Devonyu on Getty Images/Canva

3. Get a closer look and discover the nuances

From a distance, all waterfowl and song birds seem to blend together; minute differences are lost to the unfamiliar eye. When I first started birding, I never thought I’d be able to distinguish between an American wigeon, gadwall and blue-winged teal. Nevertheless, I continued to watch these birds closely, began using binoculars to intimately observe the details and slowly my awareness heightened. I began to notice the subtle difference in their silhouettes, the patterns of colours, the iridescence of feathers and even the twang and tune of their calls. Through looking closer and appreciating the uniqueness of every species, you’ll see biodiversity where you didn’t recognize it before.

Waterfowl swimming through water at sunset
Photo by Bob_Christian on Getty Images/Canva

4. Use all your senses

In everyday life, we rely primarily on our eyes for much of the information that we receive and process. Through reconnecting with our other primal senses, we can tap into a higher awareness while exploring. As you walk by a coniferous tree, reach out and feel the shape of the needles. Do the needles roll between your fingers? It’s a spruce. Or are they the flat needles of pine trees? I call this a “tree handshake.” Introduce yourself and the tree will introduce itself in return. Perhaps you might want to gently rub the velveteen leaves of prairie sage and smell the fragrant musk reminiscent of mint or get the tip of your finger sticky with cedar sap and fill your nostrils with the poignant woody aroma. What about closing your eyes and seeing how many sounds you can hear? For me, it’s almost like a primitive challenge; always trying to hear new sounds or perhaps old, mundane sounds that have faded to the background. Go beyond simply observing biodiversity with your eyes, get to know the intimate details about what it sounds like, smells like and feels like.

Close up of wet pine needles
Photo by Micah Hallahan on Unsplash

5. Put a name to the face

As you wander along trails, take the time to learn the names of the plants and wildlife with which you are sharing the space. This requires patience and time, but eventually you’ll know the wild strawberry from the Canada anemone. For myself, I utilize free apps for species identification; Merlin Bird ID for bird identification and iNaturialist for plant identification. There is something special about seeing a plant or animal and knowing the name to call it by. It sparks a connection with that being and it inspires me to learn more about the magnificent biodiversity found in every direction I look. Perhaps it might inspire you too.

Feet walking on log surrounded by yellow wildflowers
Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash

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