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Wellbeing Through Nature

Posted: Thursday 5th October 2017 by WildBlog

By Kelly Bray, Wellbeing Through Nature Project Manager

For many of us going for a walk, pottering in the garden or simply sitting and relaxing in nature is a good way to lift our mood when we’re feeling low, tired or have just had one of those days. And over the last few years, more evidence has been gathered on the positive effects of spending time in nature. Just this week The Wildlife Trusts have published research looking at the experiences of people volunteering with nature conservation activities. It shows that after just six weeks, 70% of people said they felt a boost to their mental wellbeing, and after 12 weeks of regular volunteering 95% of people who had poor levels of mental health at the start, said they felt a real improvement.

Here at Avon Wildlife Trust, we offer people who are experiencing long-term health problems, depression, anxiety and stress, the opportunity to spend time in nature and improve their wellbeing. Our Wellbeing Through Nature courses run over six weeks, and during that time we offer mentoring and support to people, help them learn new skills and build their confidence and achieve better mental wellbeing through being outdoors in nature. Each session has time for reflection and mindfulness where we practise opening up our awareness to the sounds, sights and emotional effects we all feel from being in nature. Then there is a different hands-on activity each time we meet; one week we might do chutney making at our Feed Bristol site – gathering and chopping apples and beetroot from the trees and growing beds, then joining together to prepare the ingredients and cook the chutney over our open kitchen. Another week we might focus on planting wildflower seeds, learning how to prepare the soil and ensure the seeds will flourish and bloom.

Having worked with many different individuals on our courses, I’ve seen for myself the profound changes that people can experience from their time in nature. John joined our sessions at a low point in his life when a long-term health problem as well as other difficulties had led to him experiencing depression and anxiety. He reflects on his experience;

“I just enjoyed mixing with other people, and then liked being involved in the activity we did. Part of the problem for me was isolation. You can get isolated very easily when you’re depressed, and then you don’t see anybody. So, to come out and see different people helped.”

“I think it does change your mind set. I’m doing different things now that I wasn’t interested in before. I feel this wellbeing course guides you on how you can use nature to alleviate stress, and enables you to cope better with everyday problems that everyone faces. It’s something that you can use - at home in the park or outdoors wherever you are.”

“There’s a vibe you get being outdoors. It’s hard to explain really but you’re not enclosed and you’re out with the elements a lot of the time – which is a nice experience. It is quite meditative. You can just be walking and noticing nature if you have a spare five or ten minutes even if you’re busy.”

John sums it up better than I can when he talks so powerfully about the ‘vibe’ you get being outdoors. I’d encourage everyone to carve out regular time to feel the benefits of a healthy dose of nature and notice the change you feel.

Our Wellbeing Through Nature courses run in Bristol and Bath. For more information visit or email Kelly Bray: kelly.bray@avonwildlifetrust.org.uk.
 

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