The power of images and sounds in nature

Photo by Elle Spacetoco.com on Unsplash

Whenever I am outdoors, I notice my surroundings and the audio. So I’ve been interested in finding out more about what power, if any, images and sounds in nature have on overall well-being. Studies have found that nature’s playlist has positive benefits for well-being.


The benefit of nature sounds to physical and mental health are well-recorded. Studies have linked experiences in nature to having a positive impact on well-being. A decrease in mental stress, an improvement in cognitive performance, and high levels of creativity, as well as improved sleep. While images of nature also reduce anger, fear, stress, and increase positive feelings.


Visual stimulation
If you want to reignite the feeling of being amongst nature simply surround yourself with photographs and images of outdoor scenes.


The reason images of nature have a more positive effect than abstract imagery or artworks is evolutionary. We have a need to rapidly assess and process what is happening within a unique environment for survival. Images can also relieve mental fatigue as they distract and remove us from the current environment.


Bird and water sounds
Bird sounds help alleviate stress and annoyance. While water sounds enhance positive emotions like tranquillity, awareness, and relaxation. Researchers encourage people to find inspiration in the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” by visiting a national park or participating in sound walks designed to increase our appreciation of natural sounds.
Benefit from natural sounds mixed with manufactured noises


Research also suggests natural sounds mixed with manufactured noises can still benefit people. Natural sounds help camouflage unwanted noise, such as cars, trains, and planes.
Listening to natural sounds along with artificial noise is better for you than listening to only unnatural noises. That ocean sounds playlist you listen to every night to drown out the street noise might be doing wonders for your overall health.

Photo by Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash


Go ahead and find out for yourself. Look at some breathtaking nature scenes on your computer screensaver, gaze at the flowers on your table, or display your favourite nature photos in your home or office. Unsplash has some incredible free images that could inspire you. Listen to some nature sounds of water running or birds singing and notice what difference it makes to how you feel!

Top eight things to do these summer holidays to connect with nature

Most people will be looking forward to relaxing and enjoying time with family and friends these summer holidays. With this in mind, I pulled together my top eight things to do to connect with nature from taking a walk to find your inner nature, to reading a book about nature, hugging a tree, visiting local walking or cycle trails, or taking a trip further afield. 

There are plenty of opportunities here and some are for very little cost. 

  1. Find your inner nature

    Turanga Gardens are peaceful and easy walking with heaps of different tracks for the kids to explore.

    Read my story for Gizzy Local.
  1. Read a book

    I recommend ‘Nature and well-being in Aotearoa New Zealand’ by Catherine Knight who advocates for more natural spaces in cities, towns, and backyards. For a review and where you can buy a copy of the book read my blog
  1. For something a little different, maybe hug a tree

    It really makes you feel better! Read my blog.  There’s also a great World Wildlife Fund article about forest bathing that might give you ideas as well. 
  1. Take the family for a walk around the Cooks Cove Walkway at Tolaga Bay

    While you are enjoying the walk, learn about the Māori and European history at the cove through reading the stories on the signage in the waharoa/gateway and on the walkway. One of the highlight projects that I have worked on and a real asset to the East Coast. 
  1. Cycle the Motu or Rere Falls Cycle Trails 

    For the enthusiastic cyclist wanting to try something different or find out more about these remote areas of Tairāwhiti Gisborne.  Rere Rockslide and Rere Falls along with Eastwoodhill are along the Rere Cycle Trail so ensure you stop to check them out. Read the signage on the trails that tell of the history of these places. I was lucky enough to work on these and feel very proud of how they look.
  1. Tupapa Heritage Trail

    Explore the Tupapa heritage trail to discover the stunning natural environment and many unique stories of Turanganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne).  Download the app and take a digital tour of the fascinating history. 
  1. Visit Nelson Tasman 

    It is rich in heritage and nature. I loved it and wrote about my trip there in November 2020 in my blog.  The pancake rocks at Punakaiki were amazing and makes for some great photo opportunities. 
  1. Ulva Island off Stewart Island in the South Island 

    This is a bird sanctuary like no other.  While you visit Stewart Island make sure to catch a water taxi to Ulva Island. It’s got various walking options that take you to some idyllic beaches and along the way see native birds including the kereru, kaka, and weka.

    Make sure you know before you go, be prepared, check the weather, wear the right footwear and clothing and take food/water to keep you sustained while you are outdoors

I would love to hear about your experiences if you connect with nature during these holidays.  

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer … one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near perfection as anything can come in this world.” – L.M. Montgomery

e-newsletters build relationships with your clients

Email newsletters are a popular marketing tool to inform and persuade people. They are an ideal way for businesses to keep in touch and connect with clients. Email newsletters can be very effective if you know how to use them as a tool correctly. In addition, it is free and/or low cost to send to everyone on your database.

The days of sending long email newsletters are gone with less information, and sending emails more frequently becoming the norm.

Main reasons to send an e-newsletter

Some of the more common reasons that small businesses send e-newsletters are to:

  • Keep your business at the forefront of your customer’s mind
  • Show your customers what you have been up to, be it new products or services
  • Show your customers what your business can do by sharing what you have done
  • Attract more customers

Grow your client list

If you’re relying on social media to engage with your clients, the organic reach is low and becoming more difficult. Instead, grow your client list by using email marketing channels you own, such as your website and email.

Drag and drop vs Hybrid Templates

There are many email marketing platforms to choose from Mailchimp, MailerLite, Constant Contact and GetResponse, to name a few. You can create a perfect branded template for your business. Templates are a way to save time, be consistent and build trust with colours that match your brand. They are easy to use, with many providing a drag and drop template such as Mailchimp.

While Hybrid templates are also an option and can be developed for those times when more than one person is involved in compiling news for a business. At minimum, a sales and news template and a sign-up form are recommended for most businesses.

Content

As a writer, I sometimes struggle to find topics to write about in my e-newsletter. I am conscious of boring my clients and what to ensure that the content is relevant. A way that works for me is to keep a content file of topics and information of interest. This is a great resource to refer to when drafting my content.

Some content topic ideas:

  • Your successes
  • Pillars – what do you and your business stand for
  • Throwback Thursday
  • Quote or question on another day
  • Blogs you’ve written (or blogs that you have read and resonate with)
  • Useful tools
  • Industry news
  • Testimonial or review
  • Social media items of interest
  • Staff profiles
  • Case studies within your field
  • List upcoming events
  • Offer links to other useful websites
  • Pet photos
  • Offers, products, insights, articles, research, tips

Writing content that rocks

Your newsletter should mostly be about providing value to your customers and not always pushing your own business. In the same way that social media posts are trying to get the most attention, e-newsletters are the same. The content that works best on social media like the photos of your pet, what you had for dinner last night and what you did on holiday, will do the same in your e-newsletter. It needs to meet the needs of your readers which is entertainment and information. This also helps build a connection and relationship.

Using a structured approach in your e-newsletter that includes an introduction, middle and conclusion work perfectly for most.

Writing the introduction

My top tips for writing the introduction are:

  • Keep it short
  • Keep it topical
  • Personalise it with material related to you
  • Explain what will be in the newsletter, give the reader a taster

Writing the middle

The middle sections are where all the important information goes, such as:

  • your latest blog
  • your Christmas specials
  • staff profiles
  • how you can help your customers – focus on a particular service/product

Writing the conclusion

Sometimes it can be a natural flow from the beginning and middle to the end, and other times it requires a bit more thought. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep it brief
  • Sum up what you have talked about in your newsletter
  • Include a call to action. Tell readers what you want them to do next
  • You could give a sneak peek at what is coming up in the next one

If you are looking for some more tips, my e-book ‘How to write better and engage with your customers’ has helpful information on writing emails and email newsletters.

Most important of all, develop a goal or strategy for your e-newsletters. For example, if you want to let customers know about a new service your business is providing, then make that the newsletter’s focus and go from there.

Rule of thumb for e-newsletters is that three to five pieces of information at the most! If you can link every item/story back to your website, this will help with google rankings. This will also ensure the reader is not overwhelmed with too much initial content. 

If you need help with creating an e-newsletter strategy, developing content and/or sending your next newsletter, get in touch. I offer a free 30-minute discovery chat over coffee or zoom.

woman in black suit holding pen and book

How to write a professional profile

woman in black suit holding pen and book

Photo by Darina Belonogova on Pexels.com

Many people are hesitant to write about themselves. It’s possible they think they’re not interesting enough. I’m no exception. One way to overcome this fear is to write a professional profile. Your goal should be to tell your story and let your personality shine.

Why do you need a professional profile?

I might be stating the obvious, but the world is now digital. Many prospective employers and customers surf the internet or social media to find out more about you. Don’t be a stranger. Make sure you have a presence. It can make or break whether someone wants to take the next step and build a working relationship with you.

Be conversational

Try and make your profile conversational and add some humour or a personal story. Leave your audience with something quirky or unique, this will ensure that they leave your website or social media page with a lasting pleasant impression of you.

Write the content for your profile using this framework:

  1. Introduce yourself and your story.
  2. Stick to around no more than 500 words.
  3. Write in the third person and a more active voice. This also helps Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
  4. Write a few paragraphs that sum up the work you do. Link it to examples of your product, company or services. Ensure that you highlight work that is impressive, relevant, tells your story and makes you proud.
  5. Mention your top achievements, awards, and certifications.
  6. Wrap up with personal details mentioning family, a hobby or interest outside of work.
  7. Don’t forget to share your contact information. This could be your email address, a link to your contact page, or a link to your LinkedIn account.
  8. Lastly, don’t forget to include anything quirky or unique. This will provide a point of difference from your competitors.

Grammar and spelling errors matter

When you’ve finished writing your profile, make sure to check the grammar and spelling. A profile scattered with grammatical or spelling errors is not a good look. Some useful tools within Microsoft and Google Business can help with this or editing tools like Grammarly or Hemingway. It can also be helpful to ask someone else to read it for a fresh perspective.

You need a bio for all your different profiles

It is important to have multiple versions of your bio. From an SEO perspective having unique content helps your profiles and websites rank better in search results. From a branding perspective, it’s helpful to have different versions of your bio at the ready for different platforms. For example, you only need a short bio for Twitter, while your profile can be longer on LinkedIn.

Capture your best features

To complement your profile, hire an experienced photographer to capture your best features. Make a real effort by getting your hair cut and styled and dress professionally. 

If you’re feeling more adventurous, a video story would be another way to cut through the detail and present the real person. For some more tips on recording a video, head to this site.

For examples of profiles that I have written, check out Gwenda Harvey Photography and skin-deep Clinic.

If writing your profile is something you are struggling with, then get in touch.

I offer a free 30-minute discovery chat over coffee or zoom.

Sandragroves@firstchapter.co.nz

What does telling the New Zealand story mean to business?

I attended a New Zealand story workshop which was relevant to me as a storyteller/heritage research writer. The workshop took us through exploring our inner storyteller with the aim of creating a nation of storytellers.

Our great stories are often left untold and not seen or heard in competitive global environments. New Zealand story has been set up by the government to enhance our reputation beyond natural beauty and to ensure we tell a broad, compelling and aspirational story about our country.

Why stories matter?

Our shared values and uniqueness is a combination of:

Kaitaiki: our role as guardians, ingenuity: challenging the status quo with original and bold solutions, and integrity: from a good place. Your story will be as unique as your business when you use the values that make us unique that’s when it becomes a New Zealand story.

To share how great my story is they used the Story Arc framework with five components: setting the scene, shared problems, tension or challenge, resolution and invitation.

We got to write our own story using these five components.

Here is my story as a writer who works with business and tourism:

  • Imagine the unique story of your visitor experience being shared with people now and in future
  • I connect visitors to an area they are experiencing
  • Working with business and tourism ventures to help achieve their vision for a site or visitor experience
  • Providing a better profile and exposure of an area for visitors
  • Wouldn’t it be great to work together to share the stories of your place for future generations to enjoy

My story can make a difference to my business: on my website, in the conversations I have, using digital experiences, presentations, social media content, publications, marketing and communications.

New Zealand story have created a toolkit with a range of resources from videos, images, infographics, presentations and inside stories films to help tell the New Zealand story. Make sure to check it out and if you get a chance go to a New Zealand story workshop to create your own unique story.