Unplug and unwind: why escaping to nature is the ideal way to reset in the new year
Some images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.
BY: Annie DuPre, FGASA NQF2 and Apprentice Trails Guide
Sometimes, you have to unplug to recharge. The world around us is busier, noisier, and more stressful than ever before, and with the holidays in full swing, we can often feel overwhelmed.
At Bushwise, students know how important it is to examine their role in the natural world. By joining one of our in-country courses, they leave the bustling world behind to immerse themselves in fresh air and untouched bushveld.
This choice is beneficial on so many levels – there’s plenty of research to show how nature plays a critical role in maintaining our emotional, physical and psychological well-being.
The arrival of a new year gives us a chance to refresh and reinvigorate ourselves – so how will you take advantage of this opportunity to disconnect and reconnect?
Wild spaces in your backyard
You don’t necessarily need to travel the world to find your wild escape – you can find it right in your backyard. One of the easiest and most accessible ways to unwind and develop your connection to nature is to simply walk outside and sit on the grass, under a tree, or by a river.
Leave technology behind for a few minutes and find a quiet space to soak in the natural world around you. Even better, observe the plants and animals that exist right in your own space. You might be surprised at how much diversity you can find back home.
The best part about going outside, wherever you are, is that there are plenty of ways to experience nature! From walking your dog around your neighbourhood to tracking lions in the Lowveld, the possibilities are endless!
But, why is it that nature inspires feelings of peace and calm that reinvigorates us? Let’s take a closer look.
What research tells us about nature and our well-being
Being outside typically means getting fresh air and exercise. These two things are critical for our physical health, which has positive effects on our mental and emotional well-being too. Let’s find out how.
The importance of staying connected
The term “connectedness” describes the ideal relationship between humans and the natural world. So, the way we connect to nature determines its impact on our health.
A strong level of connectedness means feeling an emotional attachment to your natural surroundings. This attachment allows you to deepen your experiences outdoors and receive the full benefits of this relationship.
Like any relationship, maintaining healthy connectedness takes work. You need to dedicate time to be outside to allow your senses to absorb the sounds, feelings, and smells of nature. We often lose sight of this in the demands of modern life and days can speed by with almost no time spent outdoors.
This is certainly something to aim for in a new year’s resolution: taking time each day to be in nature and develop your connectedness.
Nature makes us happier
Research also shows that people who are connected to nature tend to be more positive and calm. There are even studies that suggest that increased time in nature contributes to lowering anxiety and depression. In fact, nature is considered an antidote for stress.
Another benefit of being a nature-enthusiast? You can develop positive social bonds through your interest in nature. Join local hiking groups, go birding with friends, or take a wildlife course.
Take a break from technology
There are plenty of warnings about the hazards of being glued to your phone or PC. Too much screen time can cause sleep problems, neck and back problems, and even stress and anxiety. Most recommendations say to avoid looking at your phone 30 minutes or more before you go to sleep. This allows you to wind down your mind and get a good night’s rest.
What if I can’t get outside?
Not everyone has the benefit of access to outdoor spaces. There are plenty of reasons that you could be stuck inside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from nature.
Writing poems or daydreaming about the great outdoors can have similar effects. Research also shows that watching nature documentaries can be beneficial for your mental health.
There are tons of world-class documentaries on wildlife, from BBC’s Planet Earth to Netflix’s Dancing with the Birds, to Disney Plus’ Secrets of the Whales, and more.
You may also be able to find live safari broadcasts! A few companies throughout Africa offer the opportunity to be transported straight to the bushveld from the comfort of your home.
Following your favourite safari guides and lodges on Instagram is another great way to keep in touch with the bush when you’re stuck inside!
Going even further: disconnecting to reconnect
One of the ultimate ways to develop your connectedness with nature, and fully immerse yourself in the experience, is to complete a wildlife course.
If you have a passion for nature and see yourself developing a career in the industry, joining a course is the best way to disconnect, reconnect, and set off on your dream job. It’s also the best way to kick-start the new year!
The Bushwise Professional Field Guide Course is perhaps one of the best ways to connect to nature. Spend 23 or 50 weeks in the wild, each day devoted to learning more about animals, plants, and everything else that makes up an ecosystem. You’ll quickly learn that humans are just one part of a much bigger process.
And, you’ll give yourself a technology-cleanse – a period of time where you won’t be checking your phone for emails or texts, simply because there isn’t always wifi and cell signal is limited!
Are you keen to develop your connectedness even further? Sign up today for one of our 2022 courses and immerse yourself in nature.