A report released by Natural England, the Government agency responsible for nature, in February 2016, looked at care farming, conservation and social and therapeutic horticulture and found evidence that they provide an important and cost effective way of supporting mental health services. It noted that projects are already making a difference to people’s lives and bringing a range of positive benefits for those with existing mental ill health, including a reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms, and an improvement in dementia-related symptoms.
It is estimated that the local NHS could save £104m per year if everyone has access to quality green space.
However 56% of UK species are in decline and precious wildlife habitats have been wiped out with just 3% of the wildflower meadows we had in the 1930s still in existence.
The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country is piloting an innovative approach to protect wildlife and nature. The Trust believes that by helping people learn how to take care of their mental health using nature, they will value the benefits and value nature, wanting to protect and conserve it so wildlife can thrive. Their first Health and Wellbeing course will run from this June.
10 simple ways to boost your mental health using the nature on your doorstep
1. Join a volunteer conservation group. Volunteering, learning new skills and meeting people can lead to an increased sense of purpose and achievement, which increases self-esteem and guards us from anxiety and depression. All our groups are small, friendly and welcoming to beginners.
2. Take your morning coffee outside, sit in the garden in the quiet morning, listen to the birds, take deep slow breaths and relax for five minutes.
3. Let your child go wild! Join a forest school, build a den, go to a free family activity session at one of The Trust’s outdoor education centres like EcoPark in Small Heath that they’re able to run thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Help children learn to value nature so they grow up wanting to protect it.
4. Tune in to nature. Sit in a quiet outside space, close your eyes and see what you can hear. Can you hear different bird calls? Insects buzzing? The wind in the trees? The pond rippling? Empty your mind and let nature’s sounds wash over you. For a few minutes your worries can slip away as you appreciate that the world will keep turning, the birds will keep singing and the trees will keep growing even if your printer has run out of ink, you still haven’t done a weekly shop and you have a list as long as your arm of jobs to get done today.
5. Find a FREE Active Parks session near you, take part in Tai Chi, a Couch to 5k running course, even outdoor Zumba. Just five minutes of gentle exercise in green space can boost your mental health – and everyone was a beginner once!
6. Discover a new green space near where you live or work – is there a park, a canal path or a wood you haven’t explored? Do you live near one of The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country‘s Nature Reserves, like Moseley Bog and Joy’s Wood or Deer’s Leap that you’ve never visited? Go and get (a little bit) lost and remember how it feels to be on an adventure. Let yourself be a kid for the day and leave your adult worries behind.
7. Grow something. If you have a garden plant a shrub or tree to attract pollinators like bees that are in decline, if you don’t grow some herbs on a window sill. Caring for a green shoot, however small, connects us to nature and makes us feel good.
8. Look around you, what wild flowers, bugs and animals are near you? Snap a picture and tweet them to #WildBirmingham or #WildBlackCountry and they will be entered into the official EcoRecord, the official ecology database that monitors changes over decades. Be part keeping an eye on our natural spaces.
9. Get in the habit of being in nature by signing up to #30DaysWild – a promise to do something wild every day in June, from holding your team meeting outside to taking half an hour to quietly watch the sunset, #30DaysWild helps you get in the habit of enjoying everyday nature every day. Sign up to get a FREE Activity pack.
10. Find out more about The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country’s 8 week Health and Wellbeing Course by calling Emma Sargent, Outreach Officer, 0121 523 0094