It's a real blessing to live in an area of natural beauty. I'm lucky to live in Great Malvern at the foot of the Malvern Hills. Malvern was a Victorian Spa town where people have come to seek the 'healing' properties of the Malvern spring water and convalesce for years. I enjoy the spa and a romp up the hills which I suppose is healing in its own way.
But there's more to enjoying a good view than meets the eye. Studies show that interacting with nature is good for us. It is proven to reduce stress, improve mood and improve cognitive function. The Wildlife Trusts & University of Essex have consolidated much of the research behind this claim here.
Biophilia describes the human requirement to seek out nature. The reasons for this are still up for debate. Perhaps it's part of our evolutionary code; we started in nature so need to maintain a connection with it. Another theory is that nature provides a reset button for our attentions. Still in its infancy, research in this area is yet to explain the why but what is certain is that nature has a positive influence on our wellbeing. So, how can we harness this?
Ways to Wellbeing Supercharged
The Ways to Wellbeing; Be Active, Connect, Keep Learning, Take Notice, Give & Practice Self Care can all be supercharged by doing them in nature. Go for a mindfulness walk with a friend, identifying flowers and birds you don't know at a Forestry Commission site you donated to visit with a face mask on and you've ticked all boxes! Seriously though, take your run outside instead of at the gym. Go on a bug hunt with the kids. Take a picnic. Start an allotment. You get the idea. You can increase the benefits of your Ways to Wellbeing by doing them in nature.
When you can't get outside
Studies also show a plant in a room can reduce stress and anxiety and even having pictures of nature around, especially those depicting water, have a positive impact on wellbeing as opposed to urban images. Having a window view of nature on hospitals promotes quicker recovery, in prisons it reduces anxiety and resulting behaviour and in workplaces it can reduce stress. What can you see from your desk? If not a view of the outside then maybe it's time to invest in a plant and a canvas of the sea.
At our school we set up weekly staff Wellbeing Walks. Just 20 minutes around the block in the lunch break can make a huge difference to how you feel when you return to your desk. Teachers, the Chaplain, SLT and support staff have all joined in at different times. Everyone can benefit from a walk around the sports field or to the park and back. There's only one rule - no work chat!
The journalist and author Bryony Gordon set up Mental Health Mates a little over a year ago. Groups meet in a park for a walk and some solidarity for those who are or have been affected by mental ill health. It's proven a great success with Mental Health Mates walks springing up around the country. People have the chance to connect, sharing experiences without judgement. They get some light exercise with a walk but the key ingredient in my opinion is the location. Meeting in parks or the like means this all takes place in the great outdoors. Find out more here.
June marked the return of the 30 Days Wild campaign. An initiative run by the Wildlife Trusts encouraging us all to do something in the wild every day in June. Twitter was alive with the hashtag #30dayswild. People sharing images of garden minibeasts, birdfeeders in action, wildflowers in need of identification and bees rescued with a little sugar water. But this doesn't have to stop in June.
With summer, albeit a British summer, in motion, there's no excuse not to get outdoors and reap the benefits of all that Mother Nature has to offer.