With several more weeks of ‘stay at home’ instructions and the unpredictable temperament of Spring weather, it can be challenging to find a way to get outdoors and immerse ourselves in nature. The health and wellbeing promoting benefits of time spent outdoors, in fresh air and surrounded by the bustle of wildlife are not to be understated, but when heading into nature isn’t possible, there are increasing ways to find wild solace online.
The Japanese practise of shinrin yoku – forest bathing – has been shown to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase feelings of happiness and creativity. While it may be harder to travel to your nearest forest, Forestry England has released a series of virtual forest bathing videos on YouTube. The 360-degree interactive videos feature serene settings, such as a bluebell-filled glade in full bloom and a babbling river winding its way across the screen. They are designed to allow you to explore every corner and fully immerse yourself in the area.
In a similar style, as hiking has become less accessible to many, whether as a result of larger crowds or reduced transport, many hikers have taken to uploading high-quality videos of their travels. With entire YouTube channels, such as 4K Relaxation channel and Tall Sky Walker, dedicated to virtual exploration, it’s possible to traverse the crisp vistas of the Swiss alps from your armchair.
Perhaps one of the most peace-promoting elements of being out in nature is the variety of natural sounds, with research showing that background birdsong boosts wellbeing. Natural Soundmap is an online gallery of ambient, natural recordings from around the world, curated on an interactive map. By selecting different countries across the globe, you are transported to Spain at daybreak, as the dawn chorus explodes into being, or the cloud forest of Uganda, home to the impressive Mountain Gorilla.
The British Library has created a similar, although less interactive, archive, featuring a historical collection of weather recordings from across the world, taking you from English fields to the French countryside, as gentle thunder rolls over the hills.
While it may be more difficult to get out and see nature, there are many easily accessible galleries online. The Natural History Museum has curated a collection of magnificent wildlife photos in its online ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ exhibition.
For a more in the moment experience, and one that can run in the background while working, Explore has an online collection of livecams so you can experience the wonders of the Aurora borealis, visit the Tembe elephant park, and watch wild eagles raise young in their nests.
Tell us how you’re interacting with nature online
Even as lockdown eases, many of us may not be able to access nature as easily as we would like to or may not feel comfortable doing so. We’re going to curate an ever-evolving list of resources so that we can experience nature in all its forms, even when we’re at home. Help us build it by telling us how you’re interacting with nature online.