Nature and Greenspaces
Nature is good for you. There is increasing evidence demonstrating the links between exposure to nature and a range of health benefits. Spending time in the natural environment reduces anxiety, stress, fatigue and lowers our risk of depression. Being connected to nature and staying active can improve cognitive function and memory, and reduces risk of obesity, asthma, and heart disease. It can improve our concentration, enhance immune function, and reduce mortality.
There is increasing recognition of the importance of nature and place as a determinant of individuals mental health. This is important, as mental ill health is on the rise in the UK with an estimated one in four people in the UK experiencing a significant mental health issue in any one year.
As we connect with nature, this connection deepens our care and concern for nature, and we are more likely to care about it and take positive actions to protect it in the future.
Resources for Health Professionals
There is a range of resources and evidence based studies and reports available that can help you explain why nature is good for people. Research in this area is growing and is adding to our understanding of how nature can positively affect our physical and mental wellbeing. There is also an important link between spending time outdoors in nature and how physically active we are.
Please see the resource links below:
- Handbook for Nature on Prescription to promote mental health, University of Exeter
- NASP social prescribing playbook NASP
- Good practice in social prescribing for mental health: the role of nature-based interventions - NECR228 (naturalengland.org.uk)
- A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care - NECR204 (naturalengland.org.uk)
- Social Farms and Gardens case studies and information
- The Conservation Volunteers
- Nature Prescriptions | The RSPB The Edinburgh Pilot
- Thriving-With-Nature-compressed.pdf (mentalhealth.org.uk)
- What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis | Environmental Science & Technology (acs.org)
- http://bit.ly/NatureConnectionHandbook Nature Connection Handbook (University of Derby with support from Natural England)
- Festival of National Nature Reserves (nationaltrail.co.uk) 2022 is the ‘Festival of National Nature Reserves’
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC8mPb6_scg A short video film focussing on Green Social Prescribing, done as part of the GSP Test & Learn Pilot Project in Yorkshire & Humber
Very Brief Intervention
Nature is free and is entirely complimentary to traditional medicine treatments. Spending time outdoors in nature boosts self-esteem and improves concentration and quiet time in nature where we reflect on our surroundings using our senses can lead to improved mental health.
Connecting people with nature can include gardening and horticulture, interactions with animals, beach cleans, green exercise, conservation and green volunteering, bird watching, citizen science, drawing and artistic creating with nature, greening your indoor environment, forest bathing and much more.
What hobbies or interests do you have that connects you to nature?
What nature do you have nearby?
What benefits can you think of that spending in time in nature could have on your health and lifestyle?
What type of nature do you think you would enjoy most? (i.e gardening, animal interaction, green exercise)
How do you feel when connected to nature?
How do you nature might promote good health, would you like some further information on this?
- Improve your mood
- Reduce feelings of stress or anger
- Help you take time out and feel more relaxed
- Improve your physical health
- Improve your confidence and self-esteem
- Help you be more active
- Help you meet and get to know new people
- Connect you to your local community
- Reduce loneliness
- Help you feel more connected to nature
- Provide peer support.
Bring nature indoors
- Buy flowers or potted plants for your home.
- Collect natural materials. For example, leaves, flowers, feathers, tree bark or seeds. Use them to decorate your living space or in art projects.
- Arrange a comfortable space to sit. For example, by a window where you can look out over a view of trees or sky.
- Grow plants or flowers on windowsills. See the Royal Horticultural Society website for tips on planting seeds indoors.
- Take photos of your favourite places in nature. Use them as backgrounds on a mobile phone or computer screen. Or print them and put them up on your walls.
- Listen to natural sounds. You could use recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall.
- Watch videos of nature. You could try virtual walks or livestreams of wildlife.
What would you like to be doing differently, and how would you feel about that?
How can you make this change happen?
Are there any opportunities that you may have to incorporate Nature and Greenspaces into your day? If so, how would you do this?
Do you think you would benefit from some further support to spend more time in Nature and Greenspaces?
- Thriving With Nature | Mental Health Foundation
- Home | National Academy for Social Prescribing (socialprescribingacademy.org.uk)
- Bring people closer to nature | The Wildlife Trusts Materials and resources available and offer a Wellbeing Through Nature course
- The RSPB Wildlife Charity: Nature Reserves & Wildlife Conservation
- Home | National Trust
- Social Farms & Gardens | (farmgarden.org.uk) UK wide charity supporting communities to farm and garden.
- home | parkrun UK Free, weekly events around the country. Events are in parks and open spaces. Walk, run, jog, volunteer or spectate.
- Home - Ramblers Bringing people together to enjoy walking and outdoor pursuits. Includes Walking for Health and Wellbeing walks.
- TCV | The Conservation Volunteers Connecting people and greenspaces on their doorsteps
Can you think of opportunities that you may have to connect with and spend time in nature? Suggestions include:
- Walks in nature
- Bird watching
- Conservation volunteering
- Green gym
- Volunteering for local charities – nature based, animal-based
- Gardening, growing and horticulture activities
- Art and nature – creative activities
- Watching nature
- Visiting nature and local greenspaces
- Open water swimming
- Horse riding
- Decorate with plants and flowers. Use of window-sills, side-boards, and hanging plants from above can bring a welcome burst of green and colour indoors.
- Use natural textiles around the home to create a more natural feel.
- Grow herbs on window-sills. Most supermarkets sell a range of herbs or try growing from seed. Most herbs just need sunlight and moisture.
- Do a nature table. Decorate a focal point e.g. a crate or box with natural objects.
- Listen to nature sounds such as birdsong and sea waves. Use apps like Spotify or Alexa to listen to a mixture of sounds. RSPB have a ‘Birdsong’ radio app.
- Let natural light in and open windows.
- Watch nature documentaries and films.
- Use the colour green as much as you can. It is calming and soothing.
- Do seasonal displays e.g. leaves and conkers in the autumn and consider doing artwork with a nature theme.