How we use nature for better wellbeing: new blog series!

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

Renee Brailsford

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.

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Spring Nature for Wellbeing workshop, Saturday 2nd March

Spring is my favorite time of year. It speaks to me of new beginnings, fresh energy and light, colour and life. Spring makes me feel excited for the rest of the year to come. This is what I’m feeling and channeling this week as I work on Wild Happy Well’s first big adventure of 2019!

On Saturday 2nd March, Wild Happy Well is running its first half-day Nature for Wellbeing workshop, at the stunning Folly Farm Centre and Nature Reserve, Bristol.

I’m so excited to share some of the information I’ve discovered over the last few years! It’s changing my life for the better: it’s helping me become a more authentic, grounded person by enabling me to recognise just how important nature is to my personal wellbeing and happiness. By understanding exactly what nature means to me and how I respond to natural stimuli, I’ve learned how, as an individual, I can gain the most out of being in nature to boost my happiness, serenity, and positive sense of self.

Spring Nature for wellbeing workshop
Spring makes me feel excited for the rest of the year to come!

Emerge from Winter into the light

For me, the Winter has been a time of retreat, inward focus, and reflection on the year past, readying myself for emergence into the light of the new year. This is what I hope to bring to this first exciting event! Let us embrace the Spring with our faces upturned towards the warming sun, embracing the nature we love in the ways that give us, as individuals, the most happiness, restoration, and refreshment.

This half day Nature for Wellbeing workshop will teach you about the evidence-based benefits nature can provide to your mental and physical health. We will explore the concept of nature connection and what nature means to us as individuals, then delving into proven pathways to greater nature connectedness that can help each and every one of us gain greater restorative benefits from being in the natural world.

Early bird discount for bookings made by 2nd Feb!

Let’s plan for better wellbeing

We’ll set up camp at the stunning and inspirational Folly Farm Centre, with its breath-taking views over Chew Valley Lake. We’ll take part in practical exercises such as meditation to tune our senses into nature, plus we’ll spend some glorious time outdoors forest bathing and getting a little green exercise on the 250-acre Folly Farm Nature Reserve! You’ll leave with a personal action plan of how you can move forward into Spring and Summer deepening your relationship with nature and enhancing the wellbeing benefits you receive from your time outdoors.

I’m working on this with my close friend and Super-Mama Powerhouse, Rebecca Megson-Smith from Ridley Writes. As part of the day, Rebecca will be leading and running exercises to guide us into expressive nature writing, using aspects of nature that mean the most to us as individuals. This gives greatest meaning, depth, and relevance to our written work and enhances our connection to nature because it builds on our personal historical relationship with nature.

Woodland of Folly Farm Nature Reserve
Woodland of Folly Farm Nature Reserve. Photo taken by me while exploring the woods with my toddler 🙂

Join us! Book your place now

To find out more information about our Nature for Wellbeing workshop and to secure your place, please click here. The workshop will run from 12 noon until 5pm and will include a wholesome, nourishing lunch provided by the fabulous kitchen of Folly Farm, plus oodles of tea, coffee and biscuits throughout the day!

We’re giving an Early Bird discount rate of just £39 for all bookings made by 2nd February! Places cost £49 thereafter.

I can’t wait to meet those taking part and hearing about how others enjoy and relate to nature. Join us on this exciting adventure into our ancient tendencies and what they can mean for us and our health today. Emerge into the Spring light, refreshed and restored, ready to greet the burgeoning year!

30 Days Wild: Days 21 to 30 – baby in hospital

Absence

It has been along time since I last posted, I have missed writing. However, as you’ll see below, we have had a bit of a tough time and frankly, I have prioritised spending time with our little boy Archie. Sometimes, time and love are the only things you can focus on.

In hospital

It’s summer time and warm so you don’t expect to catch colds, let alone end up with baby in hospital with a cold for the third time in three months. Archie got bronchiolitis for the third time from a common cold and needed hospitalization for the third time. Anyone who has been in hospital even once with baby will know how harrowing it can be and this being the third time Jon and I felt ourselves being stretched thin emotionally. However, having been there before we were more prepared: we knew when to go, what to pack, and to an extent, what we should expect. Most importantly, we now knew how we had to care for ourselves during the experience so we could be our best for poor little Archie.

Archie in hospital
Archie in Bristol Children’s Hospital

Sharing the load

Last time we were in hospital for five nights. I stayed with Archie for the first four nights but I was so obliterated by lack of sleep and stress that when we knew we’d be in a fifth, Jon stayed with him and I went home to get some reasonable rest. This time we agreed we’d alternate staying in with him so we both could remain as strong as possible. This worked really well and I think helped show Archie that both his parents are there for him always, and reinforced that Daddy can provide snuggly comfort similar to Mummy, which is never a bad thing.

Cowboy Archie in hospital
He wears it well…

My mum came up to stay with us from Cornwall as soon as she knew Archie was ill which really helped me stay strong and provided some much needed practical assistance with things like meals. Being in hospital can prove to be extremely expensive when you’re only able to buy yourself ready meals. Her being with us also gave me more of a reason to get out and get fresh air. This, I have discovered, is SO INCREDIBLY important for my mental wellbeing when in hospital. Being part of 30 Days Wild, I did my best to seek out any form of nature that I could focus on and connect with, however seemingly insignificant, as I knew that it WOULD help me stay strong for my baby boy. This was my ultimate goal.

St. James Park is a small urban park in the center of the city. I'd walked past it many times yet I don't recall ever having visited. It gave us some much-needed green respite from the endless grey and clamour of hospital and city.
St. James Park is a small urban park in the center of the city. I’d walked past it many times yet I don’t recall ever having visited. It gave us some much-needed green respite from the endless grey and clamour of hospital and city.

A beautiful patch of midsummer colour outside St. James' Priory refreshes the eye of the passerby, if they should look up.
A beautiful patch of midsummer colour outside St. James’ Priory refreshes the eye of the passerby, if they should look up.

The 30 Days Wild Community

The day we were in A&E when we first arrived at the hospital with Archie, I went out to get a breath and phone my mum. In the midst of the concrete cloisters of the hospital ambulance bays I found a couple of thin trees and some bamboo so I attached myself to them, trying to block out the sense of grey and crisis around me. I took a picture and added it to the 30 Days Wild Facebook group that I’d joined, writing a little about what was going on. Over the course of the next few days, we were utterly overwhelmed by the support, and kindness expressed by so many members of that group. So many similar stories of babies ill with this same condition, parents offering strength and understanding; so many well wishes for a speedy recovery. Quite simply so much LOVE. I’m so glad I joined that group as it gave me such a sense of solidarity and support during that awful time. If 30 Days Wild attracts a kind and caring character of person, they seem to be concentrated within that group.

My post to the 30 Days Wild FaceBook page, with the amazing response from that community.
My post to the 30 Days Wild FaceBook page, with the amazing response from that community.

30 Days Wild: looking back

Throughout the month of June, I consciously endevoured to get a daily fix of nature: I enjoyed my Random Acts of Wildness, I’m certain they benefitted me physically (lots of walking!).  See my other accounts here, here, and here. I’m also certain they benefitted me mentally at least in the short term: some days you don’t feel like doing anything, whether that’s because of sleep deprivation, a low mood, or just sheer laziness! But whenever I had to MAKE myself do something, i.e. I was not in my (I was going to say usual but more honestly I’m going to say) preferred light mood, I felt refreshed, happier and more energised afterwards. During the two dark stints we were with baby in hospital in June, I particularly noticed how connecting to nature helped me be more rational and balanced amid the torturous emotional heights of those times. Thanks to 30 Days Wild, I know that (1) regular, even if not always daily, nature fixes make me feel better and keep me fitter, (2) even a few short minutes engaging with nature will make a noticeable positive impact on my wellbeing.

365 Days Wild

So, I WILL be continuing with the conscious nature connection ethos that 30 Days Wild has instilled in me – 365 Days Wild! For instance, as I write this, it is 6.52am and I am sitting in my parents’ lounge looking out the patio windows over their beautiful garden. There are so many birds flitting hither and thither within the trees and to the bird feeders; I am consciously looking at the birds, noticing their species (if I know it), their behaviour (are they feeding, washing, preening), and the patterns of their movements. Before 30 Days Wild, I may have similarly enjoyed the scene but I would not have necessarily paid such close attention to the finer details. This way, the habits I cultivated during 30 Days Wild are now helping me to stay connected to nature, stay wild and bring nature that bit further in my daily life.

How did you find 30 Days Wild? Have you noticed an impact on your physical and mental health? What did you enjoy the most? Stay wild, people!

The Five Ways to Wellbeing: how to feel good and function well

Wellbeing is multifaceted

Looking after ourselves and our families isn’t always easy. Some days doing things that normally make us feel better just don’t work. Our wellbeing is a multi-faceted aspect of our overall health, which is shaped during our development in the womb, our social and physical environments, and can fluctuate on a daily basis. So, it makes sense that keeping our wellbeing tip-top can sometimes be a complex task, especially for all the different members of our families.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some sure-fire ways to boost our wellbeing, even on those days when we seem to be completely off-kilter? Or when we want to bring the whole family together and do something to nourish us all? Well, enter the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and their work developing the Five Ways to Wellbeing for the UK Government’s Foresight programme in 2008.

Archie and I spending time together, learning about fish at Bristol Aquarium.
Archie and I spending time together, learning about fish and other marine life at Bristol Aquarium.

Feeling good and functioning well

Our wellbeing encompasses our day-to-day good feelings, happiness, and overall satisfaction with our lives: whether we feel good and whether we function well. However, wellbeing is also tied to our mental capital, which includes aspects of ourselves such as our cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, and importantly our self-esteem. According to NEF, the evidence suggests there are particular actions we can take to improve our wellbeing and bolster our mental capital, and these work by enhancing how well we function within our lives. NEF distilled these down to five action themes – the Five Ways to Wellbeing (wording for each taken from NEF’s report):

  1. CONNECT with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
  2. BE ACTIVE Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy; one that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
  3. TAKE NOTICE Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are on a train, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
  4. KEEP LEARNING Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident, as well as being fun to do.
  5. GIVE Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly  rewarding and will create connections with the people around you.

NEF developed a model (below) showing how wellbeing and mental capital interact with the five ways to wellbeing by enhancing how well we function. While the five ways may not necessarily be sufficient to ensure great wellbeing all the time, practicing them reinforces the positive emotions, satisfaction, resilience, self-esteem, etc., that lead to better wellbeing in the longer term. Each way promotes good functioning, which boosts wellbeing and mental capital. These then boost each other and better functioning, and so the system goes on! Are you dizzy yet?! The great thing about these ways is that they interact. Go for a walk (be active) and be mindful (take notice) or go with a friend (connect). Do a course (learn) and then apply your new skills as a volunteer (give).

A model for how the Five Ways to Wellbeing contribute to good functioning, which influences wellbeing and mental capital. The two latter components interact with each other and feedback into function to create a complex feedback loop. Taken from NEF's report: Five Ways to Wellbeing, NEF 2008.
A model for how the Five Ways to Wellbeing contribute to good functioning, which influences wellbeing and mental capital. The two latter components interact with each other and feedback into function to create a complex loop. Taken from NEF’s report: Five Ways to Wellbeing, NEF 2008.

Gimme nature

These five were the short list – there was a slightly longer list that included (drum roll please) NATURE!!! While the short-listed actions do pay lip service to key aspects of nature connection that boost our wellbeing (such as being active and taking notice), The Wildlife Trusts explore this in greater detail in their report. My next post in this series will look at the evidence The Wildlife Trusts present, and highlight some of the best ways we can all connect with nature via the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Until then!

If you’d like to read my introductions to nature for better health and wellbeing, check out my previous posts here: Part 1 and Part 2.

30 Days Wild, Days 3 to 8: our family focus on wellbeing

Delightful British summer

Well! What weather we’ve had this week… Not exactly the delightful British summer we always hope for, but then we’ve had some amazing days in the last couple of months. When the weather turns bad, it can be hard to think of ways to connect with nature when you have a young baby, without having to don the waterproofs and wellies, and wrapping baby up in all manner of layers (then CONSTANTLY worrying that baby is too hot/too cold/wet/etc.). For me, taking part in 30 Days Wild is not just about connecting myself more with the natural world, but also finding ways for Archie to also benefit from the goodness the wild has to offer, as we both focus on wellbeing (well, he kinda just focuses on milk and toys, but hey!).

 

Five ways to wellbeing

A report published in 2008 identified five actions to improve wellbeing:

  1. Connect
  2. Keep active
  3. Take notice
  4. Keep learning
  5. Give

Getting stuck into 30 Days Wild, I’ve had these in the back of my mind when deciding what Random Acts of Wildness to do each day. I’ll be going into more detail on these soon, looking at studies The Wildlife Trusts highlight that demonstrate how nature can contribute to each of these categories to improve wellbeing.

 

Our Random Acts of Wildness, Days 3-8

Day 3: Another visit to our favourite local National Trust property, Tyntesfield. My mum was staying with us and she loves the place too so it was a fun, easy excursion for all of us. It really has something for all the family: beauty in nature, architecture, and gardens, easy spots for feeding baby and play breaks from the buggy. This time, we got active and took notice: we explored further on foot and found parts we’d never visited before. I turned green with envy at the gorgeous kitchen garden. I’d absolutely love to have such an organised and productive area of our garden, however small!

Day 3: Another visit to our favourite local National Trust property, Tyntesfield. My mum was staying with us and she loves the place too so it was a fun, easy excursion for all of us. It really has something for all the family: beauty in nature, architecture, and gardens, easy spots for feeding baby and play breaks from the buggy. This time, we got active and took notice: we explored further on foot and found parts we’d never visited before. I turned green with envy at the gorgeous kitchen garden. I’d absolutely love to have such an organised and productive area of our garden, however small!
30 Days Wild day 3

Here’s a little gallery of our DSLR photos from the day – mostly taken by hubby on the Nikon D7100, post-processed in Photoshop.

 

Day 4: Getting to know my fruit trees, learning about when and how to prune them (bad weather again). When we bought out house, it already had a fig tree, olive tree, and what I thought was a peach tree in the back garden. It turns out the peach is an apricot tree – big oops! from the supposed biologist…!!! The apricot was never trained and is now out of control and not fruiting well, and the olive has become rather unruly where I would prefer it provided some form of screen, so both of these need attention. I’ve never pruned a tree and the last thing I want to do is do them any harm…so learning was in order. Now I feel much more confident and informed as to what is required and when 🙂

(I was bought the book below as a present – you can buy it here)

Day 4: Getting to know my fruit trees, learning about when and how to prune them (bad weather again). When we bought out house, it already had a fig tree, olive tree, and what I thought was a peach tree in the back garden. It turns out the peach is an apricot tree – big oops! from the supposed biologist…!!! The apricot was never trained and is now out of control and not fruiting well, and the olive has become rather unruly where I would prefer it provided some form of screen, so both of these need attention. I’ve never pruned a tree and the last thing I want to do is do them any harm…so learning was in order. Now I feel much more confident and informed as to what is required and when
30 Days Wild day 4

Day 5: Learning about native and tropical marine life at Bristol Aquarium, as it was STILL raining. It turns out my mum had never been to an aquarium before (Archie has already been several times – annual membership oh yes!). She loved it and as Archie gets older he notices and enjoys more of it which is lovely to share. We were lucky to be near the seahorses when they were fed. They rose towards the surface all together in a beautiful display, and you could hear them eating with loud POPs as they took mouthfuls.

Day 5: Learning about native and tropical marine life at Bristol Aquarium, as it was STILL raining. It turns out my mum had never been to an aquarium before (Archie has already been several times – annual membership oh yes!). She loved it and as Archie gets older he notices and enjoys more of it which is lovely to share. We were lucky to be near the seahorses when they were fed. They rose towards the surface all together in a beautiful display, and you could hear them eating with loud POPs as they took mouthfuls.
30 Days Wild day 5

Day 6: A brief nature fix today in between breaks in yet more rain… I seized the opportunity to dead-head my roses and create a small home-grown bouquet for our living room, bringing the outdoors in. Both these activities felt almost meditative so although brief, they were good for heart and mind.

Day 6: A brief nature fix today in between breaks in yet more rain… I seized the opportunity to dead-head my roses and create a small home-grown bouquet for our living room, bringing the outdoors in. Both these activities felt almost meditative so although brief, they were good for heart and mind.
30 Days Wild day 6

Day 7: As we’ve had a bit of a learning theme this week, Archie and I continued this today with a learning walk around Clifton and Durdham Downs. It was a sunny but blustery afternoon, so we were certainly connected to the elements (hello windburn…)! There was a lot of wildlife out: we saw four grey squirrels and many different bird species. Swifts wheeled in the sky above us; their elegant scythe-shaped wings giving them incredible manoeuvrability. A pied wagtail flitted and hovered over patches of grass presumably nibbling tasty insects. Only in the last few weeks have I noticed their flight pattern – it’s actually very pretty. They flutter and change direction in a delicate way that reminds me a little of a hummingbird (humour me slightly!), with their long tail waving behind. Around the city you tend to see them in car parks or the edges of pavements; if you see one in a garden or park do take the time to notice how they move. We also saw butterflies in the meadows that now fill a number of areas around the Downs.

Day 7: As we’ve had a bit of a learning theme this week, Archie and I continued this today with a learning walk around Clifton and Durdham Downs. It was a sunny but blustery afternoon, so we were certainly connected to the elements (hello windburn…)! There was a lot of wildlife out: we saw four grey squirrels and many different bird species. Swifts wheeled in the sky above us; their elegant scythe-shaped wings giving them incredible manoeuvrability. A pied wagtail flitted and hovered over patches of grass presumably nibbling tasty insects. Only in the last few weeks have I noticed their flight pattern – it’s actually very pretty. They flutter and change direction in a delicate way that reminds me a little of a hummingbird (humour me slightly!), with their long tail waving behind. Around the city you tend to see them in car parks or the edges of pavements; if you see one in a garden or park do take the time to notice how they move. We also saw butterflies in the meadows that now fill a number of areas around the Downs.
30 Days Wild day 7

Day 8: An odd day with random naps, a Dr’s appointment, and many household chores so my act of wildness today was to write some poetry when I had some space and time while Archie napped. I’m happy with the beginning, but we’ll see how it progresses. Whatever it turns out like I will share – you’ve got to just get these things out there sometimes, don’t you?! I’m not sure which of the Five Ways this might incorporate, I think mostly taking notice as I was imagining what sensing nature for the very first time might feel like.

Day 8: An odd day with random naps, a Dr’s appointment, and many household chores so my act of wildness today was to write some poetry when I had some space and time while Archie napped. I’m happy with the beginning, but we’ll see how it progresses. Whatever it turns out like I will share – you’ve got to just get these things out there sometimes, don’t you?! I'm not sure which of the Five Ways this might incorporate, I think mostly taking notice as I was imagining what sensing nature for the very first time might feel like.
30 Days Wild day 8

That’s it for now, keep sharing your Random Acts and think about the Five Ways to Wellbeing – how do you focus on wellbeing?

Nature improves our health and wellbeing: Part 2

Simple ways to enhance health and wellbeing

In Part 1, I introduced the wide range of scientific evidence proving that nature connection improves our health and wellbeing. Here in Part 2, I highlight some interesting facts we now know about how this happens. All studies referred to below are cited in The Wildlife Trusts’ report, mentioned in Part 1.

Looking at nature

Simply looking out of your window at a natural view – trees, fields, the coast – and noticing wildlife gives you and your family so much. Children who can view nature have better brain power and are more able to control their own behaviour – yes please! When you’re at work, nature views reduce stress and improve job satisfaction. Such a simple thing, but it could benefit employers so much through increased productivity and reduced sick pay! This I find incredibly powerful: hospital patients who can see nature outside get better more quickly, have fewer complications and need less pain relief. Next time you’re ill (I hope it’s a looong time away, if at all), see if you can regularly look at nature and see if you feel better quicker! Even looking at pictures of natural scenes has an effect – it relaxes your body and your mind.

Noticing the nature outside can help us feel good, improving wellbeing
Noticing the nature outside can help us feel good.

Nearby nature

I love this: using your local natural spaces helps you live longer! Woohoo, get me out there now then! It seems that using any green space has a strong positive effect on the general health and wellbeing of you and your family. It’s particularly important for children, strengthening their ability to cope with stress and improving brain power and attention. Stress reduction, enhanced immunity, more active lifestyles, lower crime rates and less aggression…spending time with your local nature can really do all this. I’ll explore the evidence for these claims in future posts as there’s just too much interesting stuff to include here and not write a tome!

Choosing to walk through local green space instead of driving, or simply having lunch in the park are great ways to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of nature for free!
Choosing to walk through local green space instead of driving, or simply having lunch in the park are great ways to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of nature for free!

Get your (active) greens

Green exercise is becoming a huge field in its own right. Just being in nature gives you benefits, just doing exercise gives you benefits – put the two together and BOOM, you get more bang for your natural buck (so to speak). The research shows that green exercise improves your health in three main areas:

  1. Psychological wellbeing
  2. Physical health
  3. Social networking

Exercising in many different environments give you these benefits, as do a variety of activities. Basically, get your active greens in whatever form you fancy and you’ll be benefiting from the synergy between nature and exercise. Interestingly, it’s the first 5 minutes of the exercise that gives you the most benefit so make those first minutes count by really being present in what you do.

Jogging in your local park can help you engage with nearby nature to improve health and wellbeing. Joining a running group is a great to get your active greens in company!
Jogging in your local park can help you engage with nearby nature to improve health and wellbeing. Joining a running group is a great to get your active greens in company!

 

Today’s task: In the comments tell me (a) your favourite natural scenes and why, (b) what green exercise do you enjoy and how do you think it benefits you?

In future posts I’ll be exploring what our wellbeing is and how you can use nature to improve yours. I’ll also be looking in greater detail at some of the recent science to find out HOW nature makes us feel good.

Taking part in 30 Days Wild 2017

Wild Happy Well is taking part in 30 Days Wild!

The Wild Happy Well family is taking part in 30 Days Wild! Here on the blog I’ll be writing about our wild adventures – our Random Acts of Wildness – and how I think it’s improving our nature connection. See Part 1 of my post on how Nature improves our health and wellbeing if you’d like an introduction to the evidence. I’ll share our photographs so you can get an idea of what we’ve been up to and the nature we’ve seen in our local area, plus tips on simple easy ways to connect with your nearby nature.

The Wildlife Trusts’ scheme

30 Days Wild is a scheme run by The Wildlife Trusts that aims to get people more connected to nature in order to benefit from the health and wellbeing boosts that science shows us nature provides. It also helps people and families learn about the nature around them which will hopefully help the next generation care for the world around us, protecting and preserving our biodiversity. By signing up to and taking part in 30 Days Wild, you can be inspired by the many ‘random acts of wildness’ they suggest and get your paws on some fun materials to make taking part even more fun for all the family!

Peony at Tyntesfield, taking part in 30 Days Wild
Day 1: A stunning display of flowers at Tyntesfield, like this gorgeous peony.

Getting into your wild swing!

I think the key with really engaging with this scheme is consistency – achieving regular exposure and connection with nature, even if only for a short duration. After all, we know that the first 5 minutes or so in nature can give the greatest benefits. This is why I’m not going to be putting pressure on us to go on enormous expeditions, but instead carve out quality moments in which we can really be present. With a young baby some days you are just too tired to even get out of the house, let alone go on a long walk or pack us all up to go somewhere further afield. So, whether it’s meditating in the garden, arranging some flowers, or even just a quick walk around the block noticing the trees, flowers, birds and bugs, taking part in 30 Days Wild we’ll do SOMETHING to connect with our nearby nature.

WHW’s first few days

On Day 1 of taking part in 30 Days Wild, my mum, Archie and I visited the National Trusts’ property Tyntesfield near Bristol. It was a beeeeautiful sunny day and we saw many stunning displays of flowers, walked around the grounds, and rested beneath lush leafy canopies provided by the mature trees. Day 2 was a tired day for me and it was quite rainy so we stayed in until both the weather and I had perked up when went for a walk around our village for Archie’s late afternoon nap. We admired flowers in people’s gardens and walked through a local community park where my mum searched for four-leaf clovers. She has a gift of being able to spot these genetic rarities and enjoys peering over the green leafy spread. Having not found any for over a year, she found five in about 10 minutes!!! She believes that they bring good luck, and she found one for each member of our immediate family, so hopefully it’ll be a healthy, happy and well summer for all of us!

Four-leaf clovers, taking part in 30 Days Wild
Four-leaf clovers my mum found during a walk in the park.

Under the leafy canopy at Tyntesfield.
Resting under the leafy canopy at Tyntesfield.

 

If you’re new to Wild Happy Well, find out what I’m about here.

Today’s task: We’re a few days in but it’s still not too late to sign up to 30 Days Wild! Will you go for it? Have you done it before, and if so did it benefit you in some way?

Nature improves our health and wellbeing: Part 1

Nature for better health and wellbeing

Being in nature helps us feel good. Recently there’s been a surge in interest in how the natural world positively impacts on human health and wellbeing. This includes the physical components of the world around us (forests, hills, rivers, etc.) and biodiversity – the plants and animals that live in it. Consequently, there’s now a wealth of scientific evidence that proves being connected to nature provides tangible benefits to our physical and mental health. So, being in nature helps us feel good and become physically healthier!

Various organisations like The Wildlife Trusts are promoting engaging with nature for the health benefits it provides.  In line with this, the Wildlife Trusts published a report in 2015 that describes the evidence for why nature is good for us. This gives me a nice way to introduce this topic that I feel so passionate about! Therefore, today’s post gives you a glimpse into some of this scientific evidence, to whet your appetite for topics I’ll be exploring in greater depth and detail down the line!

Wild swimming is a great way to get green (or blue?!) exercise
Wild swimming is a great way to get green (or blue?!) exercise

What is nature and how do we connect with it?

To me nature includes any plant or animal – I exclude pets although they provide all manner of benefits too. Your back garden, a forest wilderness, a local park, a window box – these are all ‘nature’ to me. Additionally, I consider indoor plants as valuable sources of a nature fix and I’m very keen on bringing the outside, in!

There are three basic ways to connect with nature:

  1. View nature: from a window, in a picture
  2. Contact nearby nature: get out in your garden, visit a local park, feed your local wildlife
  3. Participate in nature-based activities: walk in the woods, do some volunteering for your local nature reserve, go wild swimming

Cycling forest trails is a great way to get your green exercise
Cycling forest trails is a great way to get your green exercise

Evidence that being connected to nature is good for us

Evidence comes from many different subject areas, which means the findings give a very broad view of our health and wellbeing: immunity, self-esteem, anxiety and stress, and crime rates to name but a few!

Nature is good for health and wellbeing: evidence comes from many sources
The evidence that nature is good for our health and wellbeing comes from a wide range of subject areas.

 

Today’s task: In the comments let me know (a) what is ‘nature’ to you and (b) how do you get your nature fix?

 

In Part 2 I highlight some of the interesting ways that connecting with nature improves our health and wellbeing.