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World Environment Day: How to Connect and Learn from Nature

To mark World Environment Day we’re sharing a series of content encouraging people to connect and learn from nature. In this post we share insights from author of Natural Happiness: the Gardener’s Way and Founder of Hazil Hill Wood, Alan Heeks. This includes a helpful practical exercise called ‘the tree test’, which helps people to nourish themselves and deepen their roots.

(Alan Heeks will be giving a workshop at our Building Wellbeing Together Weekend at Hawkwood College, Stroud, UK, from September 22nd-September 24th 2017: Get your early bird ticket here!)

Seven principles for Natural Happiness

As Alan highlighted in a previous guest post for NOW, there are seven principles forming the basis of his book Natural Happiness: the Gardener’s Way, which show you how to adapt methods and skills from organic gardening to nourish your resilience and wellbeing. Here’s a summary:

  • Nourish your roots: put the priority on nourishing your ground condition and root systems, not on outputs.
  • Use natural energy sources: cultivate clean energy sources, like appreciation and inspiration, instead of driving yourself with polluting energy from stress, caffeine, etc.
  • Compost the crap: organic growers use waste as a major source of fertility, and you can compost your negative feelings too.
  • Dance with problems co-creatively: organic gardeners use listening, observation, ingenuity, to dance with problems, instead of battling them.
  • Grow strength through community: ecosystems can teach us a lot about community, for example the value of symbiosis and wild margins.
  • Natural inspiration: we can draw deeply on nature as a guide and healer to help us face our global worries and the everyday.
  • Treat life as a garden: enjoy each moment, use your senses mindfully, smell the flowers!

The Tree Test

Alan utilises various practical exercises to help us learn from nature. One of these exercises is the tree test, which shows the benefits of balancing your system and deepening your roots. Alan exlains it as follows:

“A tree offers us a beautifully simple model of balance between three main elements: roots, trunk, and branches / fruits.

A gardener knows that these three parts of the system must be balanced. If the branches are too extensive, the tree is physically unstable and won’t produce so much fruit: so the branches would need pruning. If the root system isn’t large enough to support the outputs you want, adding mulch and nutrients can help to extend it.  

The tree test is simply imagining yourself as a tree, and seeing if these three elements of your system are in balance. Ideally, do this test outdoors, sitting at the base of a tree. If that’s hard, at least picture a tree you like, with you beside it. Slowly imagine these three elements of your system:  

  • Your roots: do you have a good support network (inner resources, outer contacts) that give you stability in challenges? Does your ‘root network’ extend to draw in enough energy and nourishment to sustain your outputs?  
  • Your trunk: the trunk represents the ways you use energy to create what you want. Are your ways effective, stable, and flexible?  
  • Your branches/ fruits: do you feel your branches are overextended in relation to your roots and trunk, or could they support you producing more outputs, more fruit?  

Use this test to see where your system may need balancing: for example by nourishing your roots or pruning your branches.”

These types of exercises can help to ground us and encourage us to take care of our own wellbeing through learning and connecting with nature. 

Learn more

To learn more about Alan’s work, you can visit, and follow Natural Happiness on Facebook and Twitter.

Plus, Alan will be giving a workshop at our Building Wellbeing Together Weekend at Hawkwood College, Stroud, UK, from September 22nd-September 24th 2017, so you can join us there to learn more about his approach and work. Get your early bird ticket here!

Check out further content on nature, wellbeing and World Environment Day here. If you enjoyed this post then please like and share via the options below, and stay updated on our latest wellbeing-related content by following the Network of Wellbeing on Facebook and Twitter and signing up to our monthly newsletter

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