Last week I took part in a psychology experiment looking at the impact of the natural world on mood and well being. Each evening I was asked to write down three good things I’d noticed in nature, just one sentence for each.
All I did throughout the week was go to work and back each day. There is a small nature reserve next to my office, and some leafy gardens to pass if I go to the shop. But many of my nature observations occured during my commute, while sitting in traffic jams. I found natural things to enjoy on the motorway, in a carpark, and even in my own car (I have car spiders. No, really).
We were not asked to make any particular effort regarding the quality of the three sentences submitted, but I found that I chose my words very carefully, to distill the essence of a sensation into one sentence. Below are a few of my observations.
Banks of pale purple rhododendrons overflowing a crumbling brick wall.
Tiny fish with two flashes of yellow along the sides, darting through murky water.
Hard rain bouncing off tarmac.
White rosebuds with a creamy, delicate scent.
A small hawk drifting low over the many lanes of M1’s junction 25.
Whether due to this exercise or not, I do seem to have been in a pretty good mood recently. The study has finished now, but I’m going to try and continue it, carrying a little notebook around with me, and jotting down small observations. I think there are several benefits to be had. It will encourage me to go out and get a bit of air at lunch time (instead of just reading a book in the office kitchen). It is an exercise in observation and in communication: how to express a sensation in a clear, succinct way.
If I keep it up for a reasonable period of time it will also serve as a useful record of natural reference throughout the year. Instead of having to ask google, when does wild garlic flower? Do ferns come out at the same time as bluebells? I can check my observations and find my own answers.
I’d be interested to hear if you have any regular writing exercises you like to do? I’ve never got on well with ones I’ve tried to do before because I found them boring, and my attention is easily diverted. But I find this particular exercise pleasing and useful.