Hello lockdown 2.0.
For many of us this lockdown is going to be difficult. It’s a scary and uncertain time. But we can get through it together and with the help of the natural world.
I’m hoping this post will inspire you to create your own nature box. I would like to emphasize the fact that this is NOT JUST FOR KIDS! Although encouraging your kids to make one can be an excellent family activity and a great way of getting kids involved in the natural world – a win win!
There are many benefits to creating your own nature box. Firstly, it encourages you to go outdoors and look for little wonders of the natural world to collect, meaning you’ll be off any electronics and looking at, touching, hearing, and even smelling nature! Exercising these senses outdoors has been scientifically proven to lower stress and anxiety levels – two things we’ve probably all been experiencing more of lately. Engaging with nature by taking the time to go for walks and stopping and observing the smallest things, such as a leaf, can do wonders for both your mental and physical health. Intrigued? Here are some scientific reasons as to why:
- Fractal patterns (patterns that repeat at different scales) e.g. ferns, shells and snowflakes, have been shown to reduce stress levels by a staggering 60% ! This stress reduction effect happens because of a certain physiological resonance within the eye. So when you go for a walk in nature, your subconscious recognises these patterns, which automatically triggers a relaxation effect!
- Exposure to plants can boost our immune systems! When we breathe fresh air, we are breathing in airborne chemicals called phytoncides that plants naturally secrete. Plants release phytoncides (which have antibacterial and antifungal qualities) to protect themselves from insects, but also to help fight disease. When people inhale these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called ‘natural killer’ (NK). These NK cells naturally kill tumour, or virus-infected cells within our bodies! Extraordinary..
- Science broadcaster and environmental activist, David Suzuki, conducted a study and found that participants who spent 30 minutes each day in nature exhibited increased personal wellbeing and happiness.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, having a nature box with treasures of the natural world stashed in it can be an excellent tool for managing it. If you’ve ever had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT, you may be familiar with the ‘touch, hear, smell, look and feel’ or 5,4,3,2,1 technique whereby you exercise your five senses by focusing on an object. This mindfulness trick can help you to feel grounded again, by retuning you into your surroundings. Having a nature box in your home can be wonderful for this. Choose a tactile natural item from your box to focus all your senses on.
By now I’m hoping I have persuaded you to create your own nature box during lockdown 2.0. If I have succeeded, you’re probably now wondering what sort of items to collect! In which case, here is a list of treasures to look out for:
- Acorns and hazel nuts that have been opened by squirrels or mice (look for small holes in the nuts with surrounding scrape teeth marks)
- Pine cones
- Dried leaves
- Owl Pellets – a great find! Look for them under trees on the edges of woodland.
- Fur – deer often go through brambled undergrowth and fur gets caught
- Shed snake skin (if you’re really lucky!)
- Hatched bird eggs that have been discarded by the parent birds
- Dead insects – I’m a big fan of collecting dead bees (sad, I know)
- Lichen and moss
A lot of parents are hesitant to let their kids touch these items, as they perceive the natural world as ‘dirty’. Well… Yes it is! But as long as you don’t lick these items and you wash your hands after handling, you will be fine. It’s so important that we teach the next generation to get involved with the natural world and to help protect it – not to be scared of it!
There are many things you can use to make the box itself. Personally, I popped into a craft shop and bought a glass-topped wooden box that is actually designed for storing beads! Does the job marvellously. You could also use an old shoe box, a plastic storage box, or if you’re feeling extra crafty, grab some wood and a drill and design your own!
I hope this article has been helpful and that your nature box (should you choose to make one) brings you joy.
Stay safe xx