Nature for health & wellbeing
14 Mar 2019
I was recently asked to write a blog for our website covering my thoughts on embracing nature as a tool for healing and wellbeing. Gracious, I thought – that’s easy! I am always banging on about the feel-good factor gained by being outdoors in nature; but it’s been a bit of a challenge. In fact, it is now two weeks overdue! Why? Because the value to us of how nature sprinkles its miracle healing upon us is difficult to quantify or evaluate. Pensthorpe is a unique and spiritual site and we regularly hear that our visitors felt a connection to something very special and left feeling invigorated and healed in some special way. So, I would like to explore that below.
For many years now we have been delighted to sponsor the Norfolk Community Biodiversity awards.
Interestingly, I was recently asked why Pensthorpe was sponsoring the Nature for Health and Wellbeing category instead of our usual slot for something waterier; for example, wetlands or rivers. Perhaps Pensthorpe is associated particularly with those things. We understand that it is more difficult to define wellness than wateriness as it is about emotional versus the practical, but many of our visitors come here for an entirely different reason. They come because being in the reserve, gardens and bird hides, allows them to escape their busy lives and connect with the beauty of nature, wildlife and most particularly, they feel better for being outside. The freedom of space here immersed in nature improves their mood, boosts and stimulates their mind and makes them feel refreshed and ready to return to their busier lives away from Pensthorpe.
Interestingly, kids get nature. The simplicity of what nature is, could be the sticking point for the rest of us. It’s so vast and so intangible that it’s impossible to get a good grip of which bit does what. So, let’s try and break it down.
If you ask an adult what nature is, they will pause and think hard. Like it’s a trick question! It’s trees. It’s birds and animals in the wild. It’s fields, it’s the countryside. It’s flowers, it’s bees, it’s rivers and fish. When you’re out in it, you feel better! That is the key. When you immerse yourself in nature of any kind you really do feel better.
If you ask a child what nature is, they might just say it’s outside and it’s amazing fun!
The good thing is both children and adults usually want to be there, because nature asks nothing from you! It merely gives, and just keeps on giving.
Children can do what children do best. They use their imagination to take on another persona and play out their dreams. Run, hide, fight imaginary battles and usually allow themselves to win!
As we get older, we leave childish things behind.
We take on responsibilities that children don’t have. We must make big life changing decisions. We need to work to make money to survive. We juggle work and family. Sometimes we are coping with illness and loss. Finding it difficult to cope. Play becomes something that happens less the more responsibility we take on. We lose sight of outside in the quest to complete our jobs and responsibilities.
We forget the feeling that nature gave us. The warm sun on our face. Bird song. The smell of freshly mown grass. The colours of autumn leaves. The sight of a bee pollinating flowers. Even just thinking about those things immediately removes stress and calms the soul.
Nature is a true healer.
Scientists are now finding evidence that being in nature has a profound impact on our brain and our behaviour. Proving that time outdoors reduces stress and anxiety and increases attention capacity and creativity. Therefore, boosting our health and wellbeing. Equally as exciting and encouraging is that doctors in the UK are being encouraged to adopt a similar model to the so-called ‘green prescription’ in New Zealand that gets people outdoors rather than prescribing pills for some illnesses. In the attached link it says, ‘A recent survey of patients in the country (NZ) found that 72 per cent noticed positive changes to their health, 67 per cent improved their diet and more than half felt stronger and fitter.’ http://www.emersonsgreentreatmentcentre.nhs.uk/news/could-gps-soon-be-writing-a-prescription-for-a-walk/
Some years ago, I read an article about an RSPB member who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She decided to visit as many RSPB reserves in the UK as she could before she died. She had decided to start at the top of Scotland and work her way down the country to see how far she got. Most surprisingly to her and everyone else she eventually got to the bottom and sometime later she was given the all clear from cancer. Her understanding of the situation was that focusing on, and being outside in nature every day was a huge part of her conquering cancer.
Fitness and wellbeing go hand in hand. Walking, running, biking, Yoga, Pilates, Mindfulness are all ways of improving health, fitness and general wellbeing. We owe it to ourselves to make time for any of the above in our daily lives, but most especially we owe it to ourselves to get outside in nature as often as we can because it’s not rocket science:
Fresh air = clean oxygen
The sun = warmth, wellbeing, vitamin D
Walking = fitness, weight loss, better health
Nature = fascinating, educational, inspiring, beautiful, playful, marvellous, provoking, exciting, mesmerising, soulful, enlightening, peaceful, calming, joyful, and endless other positive, amazing attributes.
We are born with an innate understanding and connection to nature. It is like our umbilical cord to the universe. It is how we survive and grow. Being gradually starved of it can only be incredibly detrimental to our growth and potential for happiness and wellness in life.
So let’s make a conscious effort to get out there and take our “green prescription”.