The Natural Health Service for Wellbeing
A local wildlife conservation charity is championing the value of nature for health and wellbeing as many people start to think about a fitter and healthier 2023.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust are encouraging people to connect with the natural world through a range of New Year events and activities, and to experience wildlife close up at Nature Reserves throughout the region. Research shows that interactions with nature promote psychological restoration, improve mood and attention, as well as reduce stress and anxiety.
Research conducted over a 5-year period as part of The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild annual summer challenge revealed remarkable results. The campaign invites everyone to do a nature-based activity every day for a month with the purpose of connecting us all to the natural world. Professor Miles Richardson at the University of Derby surveyed 1,000 participants, measuring their connection to nature, health, happiness and the extent to which they engaged in pro-nature behaviours. The findings revealed:
- The daily activity made people significantly happier, particularly those who started with a relatively weak connection to nature.
- The challenge boosted the health of participants by an average of 30%.
- Increases in people’s health and happiness were still felt two months after the challenge was over.
- The more connected to nature people feel, the more they will do something to help to protect it – behaviours that benefit wildlife, habitats and communities.
Trust member and volunteer, Beck Davies, endorses these findings from her own personal experience: ‘There’s a little spot on Amwell Nature Reserve called Hollycross – it’s always had a place in my heart, even though it’s so close to the surrounding towns and villages, it’s provided me with solace, I know I can always rely on it for that.’
Getting out in nature can be good for us physically too. Being in green spaces can lower the stress hormone cortisol and nature’s calming effect can also reduce blood pressure and heart rate. Moreover, exercising in the wild, whether walking, cycling or running can improve muscle tone and overall fitness levels too.
Steven Werrell, Nature Reserves Senior Project Officer and member of the Trust’s Wellbeing Team, said: ‘Watching a bird of prey overhead, seeing a hedgehog snuffling around the garden after dark, admiring a carpet of bluebells in woodland can provide us with some of our most enduring memories and moments. Finding some time for the sights and sounds of nature each day can really boost mood and help with feelings of calm – its value shouldn’t be under-rated.’
He continues, ‘That’s why, as the new year kicks in, we’re promoting a series of walks, talks and tree planting sessions, and providing activities people can try in their own green spaces and neighbourhoods to connect with and support nature. You can also visit over 40 Nature Reserves and project sites across the region and, if you have time to give, volunteering with the Trust is another satisfying way to get close to nature, to learn new skills and enjoy the social interaction of meeting new people – all of which feed into our sense of wellbeing.’
The benefits of a relationship with nature are there for everyone – it’s accessible, low or no cost, and its impact on wellbeing is often felt quickly. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust provide a monthly newsletter full of opportunities to experience nature and wildlife in the area, plus nature-based events, news and what to look out for each month. You can sign up at www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk where you’ll also find more information on your nearest Nature Reserve, recommended winter walks, New Year events and ideas on how to connect with nature at home.