Following the Five Pathways to Nature Connection

A guest blog by Jennifer Short, Wild&Well.

The ancients understood it – Hippocrates himself is supposed to have said that Nature is the
best physician – nature is good for us. No matter where you look, research is now confirming
what so many of us already experienced to be true; that a connection with nature is vital for our
physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

But there’s the rub – what do we mean by a connection with nature? How do we glean the
benefits and how do we give back?

This is what we have been exploring in our Wild&Well: Nature Connection Sessions running
from last autumn. Each session has been focussed on one of the Five Pathways to Nature
Connection distilled from research and shared by The University Of Derby:

Senses - Exploring and experiencing nature through all the senses
● Beauty- Seeking and appreciating the beauty of the natural world
● Emotion - Noticing and welcoming the feelings nature inspires
● Meaning - Celebrating and sharing nature’s events and stories
● Compassion - Helping and caring for nature, and ourselves.

“I left feeling happy and peaceful and with renewed
inspiration for connecting and preserving the natural

Wild&Well participant

Each session includes a grounding – a guided mindful meditation beneath the canopy of trees,
with an invitation to drop into your senses and listen to words of inspirational poetry. Participants
might then melt into the woods for some individual time with a special focus depending on the
pathway. For example, they may be seeking out things in nature that resonate with their beauty,
or instill a particular emotion.

“That precious time I had to myself to slow down and
be still in nature without anything on my to do list
was so restorative.”

Wild&Well participant

The magic in these experiences often emerges in the sharing in pairs or small groups.
Taking your partner to a favourite tree or site of a perfect encounter is more than just
information exchange – introducing this element of nature like a friend brings that
relationship into focus. And having space to mull and share, perhaps over a hot drink round
the fire feels like a ritual passed down through eons.

“It gave me time to think/unthink and gain
perspective on some things that had been bothering
me that I hadn’t resolved before having the chance
to be in nature this way. I still feel like I have an
increased level of inner peace from it.”

Wild&Well participant

Sit spots, focussed attention, wildlife walks, nature folklore and poetry, taking a question to
nature, receiving the gifts of woodland wisdom, creative writing or exploration of how it is to be
other than human – these are some of the ways we have sought an enriched connection in
these sessions.

“I loved the pace, the freedom, the group size, the
level of being invited to think/do exercises without it
being too taxing and generally it was really lovely.”

Wild&Well participant

The next session runs in September 2024, with a focus on Senses. Whether you need some
time out, want to explore a deeper connection with the natural world, are seeking some new
good habits or some self-tending, WIld&Well: Nature Connection can be a rewarding and
worthwhile experience.

The final words I leave to this poem which came out of the previous Wild&Well: Nature
Connection Session on Compassion:


My footprint beside yours
in the mud
My paths you trample
with patterned feet and textured soles.
I see you moving through;
with the babble of your noisome song,
eyes fixed on the path ahead
and ears to the path.
When we stop
in the open grass
and tremble in the lock of eyes,
I see you frozen in our shared moment
Then I melt into the trees
Leaving only my footprint
Beside yours
In the mud.