Staying Connected to Nature

woman stargazing at night sky

As the world slowly begins to return to normal, many of us will feel the stressors of our old life return – the daily commute, running the kids to and from sports practice, or spending our free time at a family function on the weekend.   However, as we’ve covered on our blog before, staying connected to nature is important for our physical and mental health.  Researchers have also found that it’s especially important for our kids to get outside to avoid “Nature Deficit Disorder.”

So, how do we find balance?  How do we keep up with the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life but still stay connected to nature? Here are some simple ideas:

Bird-watch in your own backyard.  Check out the birds that frequent your backyard with these great tips from Audubon New York.  Not seeing or hearing much?  Put up a bird feeder.  In the Spring or Summer, you might even be able to attract hummingbirds by putting out a special sugar water feeder or planting special flowers.

Little girl looking through binoculars looking for birds

Watch for birds in your own backyard.

Set-up a backyard garden.  Buy some seeds or some starter plants from a local nursery and start a vegetable garden.  Keep note of how the plants transform each day.  Make a family meal using your own veggies.  Or, try sprucing up your landscape with native plants.  Check out the Long Island Native Plant Initiative for some great advice on how to utilize Long Island’s native plants in your yard.

Look up at the night sky.  Shut out all your lights and head outside to look-up.  Use an app like SkySafari to point up to the sky and see what you’re looking at.  Try and identify the stars, planets and constellations that you see.

Go on a hike.  Check out our recreation guides to explore a Pine Barrens park on your own or join us for one of our guided hikes.  Our Long Pine Barrens Parks Passport is the ultimate Pine Barrens self-exploration guide.  It covers 10 parks with 10+ Pine Barrens lessons to be learned along the way, making it perfect for families, classrooms or just the solo hiker who is looking to learn more about this unique ecosystem.

Cover of the Long Island Parks Passport

Long Island Pine Barrens Parks Passport

Identify the plants you see.  Whether you notice a new wildflower in your backyard, are taking a walk throughout  your neighborhood or are hiking though the Pine Barrens – identify and learn about the plants you see by using apps like iNaturalist or PlantNet.  Simply snap a picture with your smartphone and learn all about the plant before you.

Incorporate nature into your work day.  Still working from home?  Grab your laptop, cellphone or notepad and work outside.  Back at the office?  Step out for a bit and enjoy your lunch break outside.

If 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic was good for anything, it allowed some people the privilege of the opportunity to slow down.  People also explored our natural spaces in record numbers.  As we hopefully begin our return our normal, let be sure not lose our connection with nature.  It’s far too important.

By: Katie Muether Brown, Long Island Pine Barrens Society