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From Noticing Nature to Becoming Embedded in Nature: a journey with colleagues at the Institute

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Blog picture: From Noticing Nature to Becoming Embedded in Nature: a journey with colleagues at the Institute
"This change in human-nature relationships is a shift from passive enjoyment of the outdoors to becoming embedded in nature"

By Laura MacLean, Phoebe Somervail, Hannah Hasler, Anna Conniff and Kate Irvine

It is now two years on from the first COVID-19 lockdown (23rd March-29th May 2020). Several researchers in the Social, Economic, and Geographical (SEGS) department at the James Hutton Institute began to reflect on how this pandemic impacted our use of the outdoors. Through these conversations, we realised that everyone’s story is different as each person’s relationship with the outdoors is moulded and shaped by their reciprocal relationship with nature. So, we decided to collect some of the experiential stories from our colleagues here at the James Hutton Institute, which we have put together into two short podcasts (links at end of blog).

The podcasts are divided across two themes. In the first one, our colleagues talk about what they noticed about the nature around them. Noticing nature is about actively paying attention to the environment you are in. We can hear noises without listening to their sounds, look at spaces without really seeing their beauty. However, here, our colleagues notice nature, which activates potential pathways to nature connectedness where they not only hear, but listen, and not only look, but see.

In the first podcast, noticing nature is heard through comments such as: “it was as though I had not heard them until now” when really listening to the sounds of their local area. We also hear stories of “calm” and “escape” that the ecosystems provided for colleagues, and the enriching benefit that they gained through encountering their local spaces. This is discussed through listening to the sounds of the waves, the birds, and the wind chimes, and how these sounds have the capacity to calm you down in a unique way compared to the noises you hear whilst you are indoors.

In podcast two, stories are shared about how becoming embedded in nature involves developing a meaningful and emotional relationship with nature. The stories suggest that this goes beyond passive engagement to forming a purposeful and intentional connection. During the podcast, colleagues disclose experiences where they became embedded in their local ecosystems. This is shown by the emotional connections that occur when people activate the pathways to nature connectedness, where they not only notice their landscape, but become embedded in it. This is expressed by one colleague who discusses the emotions felt through time in nature making them feel “calmer, happier and more alive”. These emotions are echoed by a second colleague who expressed feeling “glad” that they are able to access this moment of “calmness” each day.

This change in human-nature relationships is a shift from passive enjoyment of the outdoors to becoming embedded in nature. Colleagues described being ‘drawn in’ to the outdoors and becoming so familiar with a place that they could recognise tiny seasonal changes in the landscape. One colleague explains how taking pictures of the sea allowed them to connect with family, where their connection with the landscape facilitating connections with loved ones. By becoming embedded in a space, we begin to understand our own impact and role in this space alongside the impact it has on us. One colleague describes this when they discuss how their appreciation for the sounds in their local area during lockdown highlighted the impact man-made sounds usually have on the outdoors.

A key theme that emerged is the positive impact of the outdoors on wellbeing during this first COVID-19 lockdown period. Colleagues described both physical wellbeing benefits such as ‘fitness’, ‘fresh air’, ‘calmness’, ‘relaxation’ and ‘restoration’. These benefits were often linked to their new appreciation of nature and their changed relationship with the outdoors. During the pandemic, a lot of focus has been placed on the effect of nature on mitigating the stress and poor mental health caused by lockdown and it is motivating to see these effects described by our colleagues in this podcast.  

A final point to note from these stories is that most colleagues explained that they had formed lasting outdoor habits due to the first lockdown. These habits not only continued for the whole lockdown period but some also have been sustained over the last two years as restrictions have lifted. It is encouraging to think that we may have all become closer to, and more appreciative of, nature during the pandemic – one positive of lockdown.

If you want to hear more about our colleagues’ journeys, why not listen to the podcasts?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author(s), and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Printed from /blogs/segs/noticing-nature-becoming-embedded-nature-journey-colleagues-institute on 29/11/22 01:50:26 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.