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“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” – Henry David Thoreau

11 May 2021

Mental Health awareness week has arrived, and this year’s theme is nature. Most of us appreciate the benefits of spending time away from the hustle and bustle of towns and cities. We’ve known about the positive effect’s of being outdoors and embracing the wonders of nature for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Recently we have all been restricted in our ability to travel and spend time roaming the countryside. Our inability to enjoy time with others in natural environments has had a negative effect on many, with a surge of mental health issues predicted across all parts of society.

The Japanese practice of ‘Shinrin-Yoku’ or ‘forest bathing’ to me and you, has been shown to benefit humans in a variety of ways. Research by Hansen et al (2017) highlights the mental health benefits of spending time in natural environments. These benefits include, a reduction of stress levels, greater positivity, an improved mood and a reduction in both depression and anxiety related conditions (Hansen et al, 2017).

Dorset Wildlife Trust’s CEO Brian Bleese comments ‘Contact with nature has a positive impact on a person’s mental health and overall wellbeing. As the lockdown restrictions reduce, we are looking forward to engaging with our visitors and providing a greater access to the natural beauty of Dorset’s wonderful countryside’.

As we all know, there is a difference between knowing something and acting on that knowledge. Obviously for some, the time and opportunity to spend time in natural environments can be difficult. But even small doses of nature have been shown to be beneficial.

Is it possible to go for email or social media free walk at lunchtime?, Could we spend more time in the garden, walk a friend or neighbours dog or even start growing a few potted plants or veg on a windowsill?

For those us who are motivated by walks with a purpose, Did you know it’s possible to borrow someone else’s dog. Website’s such as borrowmydoggy offer a great opportunity for dog lovers who are not dog owners to take a dog walk without the fulltime commitment of owning a dog.

Another idea is what we call nature nudges, it’s a simple idea and easy to do. Just think of someone who you think might benefit from upping their dose of nature. Together you could plan and support each other’s opportunities and uptake of nature. Invite them to join you on a walk or maybe just meet up for a picnic in the park.

If you have any great ideas or examples, we’d love to hear them. Please share at office@ouchtt.co.uk