Looking to nature to improve your wellbeing and health
Our theme this month is the great outdoors and nature. Getting out in the sunlight and fresh air with trees and green space can help improve your mood, support your immune system and reduce stress levels. Time out-of-doors has been a lifeline for many during the pandemic giving people the opportunity to safely socialise or to get a change of scenery. By getting outside you are getting the exercise and vitamin D recommended by the OMS Program.
Green social prescribing
Charities and grassroots organisations have been providing services to people for some time and highlighting the benefits– such as ‘green gyms’, gardening mental health recovery groups and other community-based programs. Social prescribing is gaining popularity - the practice of referring patients to social activities instead of or as complementary to more ‘conventional’ forms of medicine. Green social prescribing is nature-based interventions or activities which has added benefits for the environment, conservation or new skills.
New Zealand has been issuing green prescriptions since 1998. 80% of GPs there have at some stage prescribed exercise rather than medication. Research suggests that social prescribing particularly works for a wide range of people, including those with one or more long-term conditions, who need support with their mental health, who are lonely or isolated or who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.
How are you all getting outside?
This doesn’t mean that you need a scheme, or a prescription to enjoy the outdoors! But if you struggle with getting out and about for whatever reason, or want to start something new, there may be an organisation locally to you that can support you.
96% of you said that you love spending time outdoors and 88% enjoy outdoor hobbies which help reduce your stress. You can read about some of these in the blogs in this newsletter – from swimming, to tennis and horseriding – there are so many ways of enjoying green space and hobbies can foster good emotional wellbeing.
Benefits of getting out in green space:
Living in urban areas with more green space in the UK is associated with lower mental distress and higher wellbeing.
The quantity of green space in the living environment is associated with improved mental health including reduced stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression.
People who visit nature regularly feel their lives to be more worthwhile (after controlling for other factors).
There is also emerging evidence of a positive association between greater exposure to outdoor blue spaces (lakes, rivers etc) and benefits to mental health and well-being.
COVID-19 has exacerbated health inequalities and levels of mental ill health and highlighted the value of accessing greenspaces, but also the inequalities of access to greenspaces.
There are websites with accessible walking routes for those with reduced mobility, or organisations can help with transport for access to green spaces if you don’t have the means to get out to somewhere green. Discussion in the Online Circles can help you with local knowledge about spaces with good parking, or public toilets and also people’s experiences of using poles or other
Let’s all try to get out more, whether it’s your own back garden, a local park or woodland or a weekend trip to the countryside.
White MP, Alcock I, Wheeler BW et al (2013) Would you be happier living in a greener urban area? A fixed-effects analysis of panel data. Psychological Science 24(6):920-8
Hartig, T., et al., Nature and Health. Annual Review of Public Health, 2014. 35(1): p. 207-228
Van den Berg M, Wendel-Vos W, van Poppel M et al (2015) Health benefits of green spaces in the living environment: A systematic review of epidemiological studies. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 14(4):806-816; van den Bosch M, Ode Sang Å. Urban natural environments as nature-based solutions for improved public health – A systematic review of reviews. Environmental Research. 2017;158: 373-84
White MP, Pahl S, Wheeler BW et al (2017) Natural environments and subjective wellbeing: Different types of exposure are associated with different aspects of wellbeing. Health Place. 45:77-84
Gascon M, Zijlema W, Vert C, White MP, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ. Outdoor blue spaces, human health and well-being: A systematic review of quantitative studies. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. 2017;220(8):1207-21