Dose of Lincolnshire's nature is just what the doctor ordered to support mental health
I glance out of the window. My view to the trees on the opposite side of the car park is obscured by fine rain. The kind with tiny drops that look like they are floating. They lull you into a false sense of security, then you get drenched. I think I’ll stay in the office this lunch time.
I’m fortunate to work for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. We live and breathe wildlife but many days are spent, like any other office worker, sat at a computer. I use my lunch time for my daily dose of nature. A 30 minute walk by the river or wander in our headquarters garden. I’ve seen turquoise flash of a kingfisher, watched a water vole and been so close to a sparrowhawk that I felt part of the chase.
These dramatic moments stand out but the joy of a regular nature walk are the small things. Being in nature even for a brief period, amongst trees, hearing bird song; re-grounds and re-sets me for ready for the afternoon. I know that it’s beneficial to my wellbeing but it’s more than just a feeling. The benefits of being active in a natural environment are increasingly being recognised by health professionals.
The latest research revealed that prescribing contact with nature for people who have low levels of mental wellbeing is excellent value for money. Researchers at Leeds Beckett University analysed the social value of Wildlife Trusts’ outdoor volunteering opportunities, which support people with anxiety, stress or mild depression. The report found that people felt significantly better, both emotionally and physically, as a result of taking part. They needed, for example, fewer visits to GPs or felt more able to get back into work.
This research demonstrates that nature-based interventions could offer a real solution for the treatment and prevention of mental health issues. It's a powerful conclusion.
Could nature on prescription become a core part of the National Health Service (NHS) mental wellbeing programmes?
It might not help everyone but - as the often-quoted statistic states: one in four of us will have a mental health problem in our lifetime – it might make a real difference. Even a simple daily dose of nature could be a preventative measure.
It’s still raining outside but appears to have eased. I’ll risk it, it’s only light, surely I won’t get that wet.