Nature and emotional intelligence

Type of tool: 
120+ min
Topics addressed: 
Personal development
Social inclusion

The tool consists of different workshops that are directed to increase the emotional intelligence and the personal development of young people with the use of natural elements, it mostly takes place in an outdoor setting.


The general purpose of the tool is to increase the emotional intelligence and self-awareness of the participants. As the workshops in the tool are directed to nature and outdoor methods, participants additionally learn more respect for nature and a more 'sustainable' mindset.


The main methodology used is outdoor education, but also elements from discovery based learning, peer learning and visualisation are used.

Step by step process: 

The tool consists of different workshops in nature aiming at increasing emotional intelligence and self-awareness. In the manual 'Switch it on' - manual of practices for youth work that was created in the project (also added as a different options are mentioned, the workshops numbered 52-57 are most closely directly related to nature. The workshops and steps can be adjusted to the target group and amount of time. A minimum variant of the tool could include:
• Silent Walk In Nature:
The silent walk is a walk in silence in nature. For a designated time (5-20 minutes) the participants walk in silence. Explain to the group to follow in silence, noticing what is going on around them and inside their own body. An option is to make a threshold (e.g. a branch on the ground) that everybody crosses before starting the walk, to symbolise entering a new time/space dimension. One person (the youth leader/Trainer) leads the way and (optional) a second one gives a signal for each person to pass the “border/threshold” and follow the others in a silent walking line. This second trainer joins the group as last person. The walk can be 20-30 mins approx. The threshold can be used as a closure of the walk before having a short sharing and debriefing of the activity in a circle. For example, by inviting them to share one word about the experience. Or just inviting them to share thoughts on a board/ flipchart for those who want to.
• Tree Emotions
A tree can be a mirror for our emotions and ourselves. Go to the forest in pairs. Persons ‘A’ find a tree that attract them. Persons ‘B’ ask questions about what Persons ‘A’ see in the tree and how they feel about it. Ask what do you see? What do you feel? The questions should be open, without judgement. You can ask the ‘What do you see?’ and ‘What do you feel?’ questions several times to get deeper. Often at a certain point during this process, an emotion is touched. Persons ‘B’ create an open and safe space in the way they communicate so the other person can really open up and speak about what they feel inside and give space to their feelings. Swap roles.
• Reflection and Discussion
A personal reflection in the notebook or in pairs, and if the group is not to big it can be done in plenary.
If there is more time and or you would like to address a specific target group, there are workshops that can be added:
• Blindfolded Walk & Exploration
The activity takes place in pairs. One of the people is blindfolded or closes his eyes and the other guides the first one to different objects in nature, such as trees, plants, flowers, water. While approaching the objects, the guide invites them to touch and perceive what they encounter. After 10-15 minutes the roles are reversed. By not seeing, the other senses (touch, hearing, smell) become more acute and people become more aware of the environment. It is also an exercise of trust, as it is necessary to trust the person who guides
• Natural Mask Making
The workshop is developed in two phases, in the first phase the group goes out in nature to look for and collect (natural) materials that could represent part of the face, such as leaves, stones, grass, etc. In the second phase, participants work in pairs: a person, blindfolded, creates a representation of his/her face with the collected natural materials. In doing so he/she can describe the steps and how he/she feels. The other person, the observer, listens carefully and writes what the companion says (without reacting!). Eventually the “observer” reads aloud what his companion said. It is also possible to make a video / audio recording and watch it together if the two participants agree. Once the first creation is over, the two participants exchange roles.
* Nature ritual
Rituals are acts / moments / spaces used to empower, celebrate or deal with a situation or an emotion. Explain to the group that an effective ritual has five basic elements:
• Intention: objective/aim
• Place: a specific space where to act it
• Symbol: objects with a given meaning
• Act: the practices adopted
• (possibly) Witnesses: participants with whom to share the ritual
The combination of the various key elements (intention, position, symbol, act and - possibly - witnesses) give shape to the ritual. Through the ritual, it is possible to express and internalise the intention and it can be a very powerful space in which to live it and act for it. The intention, one of the main elements, is a set of a few sentences concerning something you want, or you are looking for. As a first step, invite participants in the group to look for a symbol in nature that attracts their attention somehow and has some connection with the intention. Invite them to feel what intention can be connected to the symbol. Or, ask the participants to define the intention they want to bring into the ritual, first, and ask them to look for a symbol / natural object connected to it. Let the participants express their intentions in the first person, using ‘I’ phrasing, (they can also do it on their own) and invite them to use the symbol of their choice to support the intention, such as a brief representation or put it on the ground or leave it free. Let everyone do what they think is right. After the ritual you can invite the participants to a circle or to share with a partner.

Materials and resources: 

A park or forest with a lot of natural material and resources (trees, leaves, nuts, etc.) is preferred, For some workshops natural materials can be taken inside or pictures of nature can be used.

Furthermore a notebook (for personal reflection) and a smart phone (for time keeping, photography and sound recording) is advised.

Music is not needed, but if wished a meditative type of music is suggested.


The outcomes are focussed on more emotional intelligence and more self-awareness. In our experiences in the use of the tool participants have gained more knowledge about themselves, it helped to open-up themselves, were less judgmental to themselves and others, more open to their emotions and have increased their respect for nature.

Notes for further use: 

The tool can be adjusted to the amount of available time. The workshops should preferably be used in a natural setting with forest. If that is not available the tool can be adapted by bringing natural material inside and some workshops can be adjusted for inside use.

The tool is an ongoing process and different new workshops can be added.

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Average: 5 (1 vote)
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