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The natural world plays a vital role in our mental health

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Posted: Monday 5th December 2016 by WildBlog

Image credit: Zsuzsanna Bird

Now we are in December it feels okay to talk about Christmas and the festive season! This time of year has nature at its heart – we bring trees indoors, hang wreaths and mistletoe, and sing songs with wildlife themes: holly and ivy; partridges in pear trees; running deer.

The 25th December falls at the darkest time of the year, and the festive celebrations of old existed to welcome back the light – each subsequent day becoming slightly longer and lighter, leading into spring. These customs, historically focussed on nature, have now been replaced with a focus on shopping! And while we all love to give and receive presents, the sad fact is that society is forgetting to celebrate nature, not only at Christmas, but throughout the year.

Disconnection from nature is having serious effects on our mental health. The mental health charity Mind states that 1 in 4 of us will suffer from poor mental health during our lifetimes. Anxiety and depression are increasingly common. But at the Wildlife Trusts we know that spending just a short amount of time each day in nature can significantly increase your mood, and make a long term difference to your mental health.

 

Avon Wildlife Trust has been working with communities across the region for almost ten years, (re-)connecting people to the wildlife on their doorstep – and the action they can take to protect it for the future. Our Communities and Nature (CAN) project worked with over 15,000 people from all over Bristol. People suffering poor mental and physical health, alongside people struggling with long term unemployment or living with learning disabilities – regularly getting outdoors to care for their local green spaces. 

In total, 75% of people involved in the project said they felt better as a result of regularly connecting with nature. The CAN project supported communities to come together to re-imagine and transform 42 outdoor spaces in the hearts of their neighbourhoods, so others could enjoy the same benefits of being outdoors, and get involved in protecting their local wildlife. 

At AWT we know that when you are connected to nature, you are more likely to act to protect it. How do you connect to nature? Do you marvel at the frost coating each blade of grass on a sunny winter morning? Climb trees with your children? Or walk on Avon Wildlife Trust nature reserves? At AWT we urgently need to connect more people to nature, and inspire more people to care about the future for wildlife here in Avon.

If you care about the future for nature right here on your doorstep, please make a gift to our Nature Connections Appeal. Every gift you make will be doubled using our match fund. You can help connect more people to the wonder of our wild by donating online here: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/ConnectionsMatchFund 

Dormouse image credit: Amy Lewis

 

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