WWF and the Mental Health Foundation publish mental health support guide. The guide is backed by presenter Julia Bradbury – who shares her own relationship with nature and mental wellbeing.
Environmental organisation WWF-UK and the Mental Health Foundation have today launched a comprehensive guidebook for mental health. The free guidebook, ‘Thriving With Nature’, aims to raise awareness and open conversations about mental health issues, while recognising the increasingly important role that nature plays in supporting positive mental wellbeing.
The guidebook explores the relationship between nature, wellbeing and mental health. It features ways nature can help us, how we in turn can help nature, plus activities to maximise the benefits we get from the nature on our doorstep, such as stargazing and tips to grow your own food.
Multiple research studies have found a link between access to green space and a reduced risk of mental health problems, improved mood, and increased life satisfaction2-5. Other benefits of nature include reduced stress, increased physical activity, and better physical health5,7. Interactions with nature can start at home – from planting window boxes to introducing houseplants.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of people across the globe. Recent months have shown a growing appreciation for nature among the public, and it’s now more important than ever for everyone to enjoy the remarkable mental health benefits of connecting with nature.
New research1, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation has found that six in ten UK adults (62 per cent) who had felt stress because of COVID-19 said going for a walk had helped them cope – making it the most popular activity of all those listed in the survey. Meanwhile, almost half of UK adults surveyed (47 per cent) who had felt stress because of COVID-19 said that being able to visit green spaces had helped them cope.
While the reasons spending time in nature is beneficial to us are still being understood, it is often related to how our senses connect us to the environment around us, from the shapes we see in nature to the scents that trees give off and the fact that nature can stimulate us, which helps our minds rest.
In the foreword, presenter Julia Bradbury, a long-time nature enthusiast, shares her own ways of balancing her mental health. Julia says: “For those of you thinking ‘I don’t have time to get to the mountains or big rugged landscapes’, a stroll in a city park, by a canal or around your local woodland can be just as reviving. And if you work in a dense urban jungle it’s still worth while heading outside into the light; a single tree can inspire as much joy as a ‘Big View’. You can certainly use this guide to help you discover, season by season, what is happening outdoors.”
Experts at both WWF-UK and the Mental Health Foundation have provided the science behind the new guide, with additional support and advice from The Wildlife Trusts and Natural England.
William Baldwin-Cantello, Co-author and Chief Advisor on Forests at WWF-UK, said: “Just like many others, I have felt the effects of stress, anxiety and other pressures on my mental health. I’ve found time spent in nature – and being really aware in nature – has made a big difference for me. The evidence shows that this can and does benefit other people too. We all need a nudge, a reminder or a guide to get outdoors when it will help us most. That is the aim of this guide – it offers ideas for things you can do, near and far from city life, plus a space for you to write, draw or do whatever helps you to be most aware in nature.”
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director for England and Wales at the Mental Health Foundation, added: “The partnership with WWF-UK made perfect sense for us. Growing evidence suggests that being in nature has a very positive effect on our mental health, providing protective and restorative benefits. As contact with nature is so important for our wellbeing, we need to make it possible, when planning housing and public spaces, for everyone to spend time in a park, garden, lakeside or other ‘green’ or ‘blue’ space. Through our partnership with WWF-UK, we also want to raise awareness of what environmental damage and destruction can mean for our mental health. We need to get serious about cherishing the natural world and acknowledge that human thriving depends on it.”
A limited number of print copies of the guide will be available later this summer. Those interested can register on the Mental Health Foundation website.
While Thriving With Nature offers activities and advice from our experts, you can also find out more about the benefits of nature via WWF-UK, and about mental health via the Mental Health Foundation’s website.