I’m really excited to begin with the first in my new blog series: How we use nature for better wellbeing! The aim of this series is to showcase how different people use nature in their daily lives to overcome barriers to health and wellbeing.
Our relationship with nature is very personal: each of us relate to nature and connect with it in different ways; this is shaped by experiences in our childhood, our personality and sensory processing preferences, plus other factors.
The issues we face in life and how these affect our overall wellbeing are also wide and varied. But I have an inkling that some of the big ones may resonate with many of us, so it is my hope that sharing individual stories in this series will help us learn new ways to use the nature we love to overcome common stumbling blocks in daily health and wellbeing.
Over the next few months I’ll be publishing posts from nature enthusiasts from a wide range of professional backgrounds which I hope will shed interesting perspectives on the role that nature can play in our lives. As always, I’d value your thoughts, comments, and if anyone would also like to contribute, please do get in touch!
Renee Brailsford: guest author bio
Our first post in the series is by garden designer and plantswoman Renee Brailsford, who specialises in gardens for wellbeing. Her work is inspired by the restorative powers of the outdoors & wild spaces, combined with a love of mindfulness. She aims to find creative ways to engage and connect people with nature in sustainable, thoughtful and beautiful ways to design joyful spaces for play & learning, as well as therapeutic spaces for connecting & relaxing. Over to you, Renee!
My relationship with nature
As a garden designer, nature is a central part of my life. I spend at least a couple of days a week out in lovely Derbyshire gardens with my hands in the soil; gardening and growing things. But for me nature offers so much more than that. I’m continually blown away by the restorative effect the outdoors has on my wellbeing and, living on the edge of the magnificent Peak District, I spend a good amount of my free time exploring the landscape. I walk, meander, potter, sit and breathe it in.
Occasionally I make a special plan to head for a particular spot, to see the sunrise or sunset, but more often I follow my nose and find a stream or an interesting tree to enjoy. I ponder on how we share the air we breathe, the water, and how we’re all essentially made of the same building blocks – we are nature. I have favourite places which I visit regularly, where I’m able to observe the changing seasons and build a real connection to a place.
The landscape here is so varied, the horizon lines change, as you travel, one hill recedes and morphs into another. Early mornings offer stunning misty valleys and cloud inversions. I also notice the details; cobwebs, new buds forming, the colours of the leaves against the blue sky, I enjoy the air on my skin, the sound of a stream. I slow down, quieten my thinking mind and my senses awaken.
I enjoy this both with and without my children – and they inspire me too. They were never told not to get muddy, or that they shouldn’t climb trees for fear of hurting themselves. Watching them in the woods is a joy and sometimes, I copy them in an effort to challenge myself and to ‘re wild’.
Often, nature induces a sense of calm, a good couple of hours at the allotment, or a stomp across the Derbyshire hills will leave me feeling a heavy satisfaction of having unplugged – or recharged – depending on which way you chose to see it.
Walking helps you think – creative ideas tend to come when I’m relaxed, bored or applied to something else – and least when I am striving for them. Which means I can justify a certain amount of wandering outdoors as helpful to my work – not just my wellbeing.
I, (as most gardeners do) have a bad back, which can be problematic with some of the more physical aspects of my work – interestingly a good cross country walk can really help – the irregularity of the stride seems to make a difference in resetting my alignment where walking on paved surfaces doesn’t. In the winter I also enjoy a little barefoot walking – when bad weather comes and I get cabin fever and I realise how many days it is since I got my ‘fix’.
Sometimes, nature makes me feel seen & heard, there are areas of woodland where I feel greeted back by the community of trees and connected to something bigger – to sense that my own personal dramas aren’t such a big deal. Eco psychologists, and some ancient cultures practice medicine walks – a or rite of passage where individuals can deeply connect with nature to reach revelations or wisdom.
As is considered typical, nature lovers become quite protective of nature and engage in what experts call ‘pro environmental behaviours’. I feel fiercely protective of my local wild spaces especially, and of the soil – I struggle to see fields sprayed with weedkiller, and diggers and machines carving up soil structure.
Getting outdoors is good for you certainly, but if you can slow down, tune in and be mindful the benefits are supercharged.