How nature affects our wellbeing

My son was born in late September and the weather in London was still warm and sunny. I had absolutely no idea how to look after a newborn baby but the one thing we did every day without fail was going out for a walk.

I once read babies needed fresh air to help them sleep. I have no idea whether or not that’s true and can’t really say my own experience supports it. However, in those early days of motherhood when I felt uncertain about everything, a walk around the park made me feel like we’d accomplished something.

Those daily walks helped me feel more positive about not knowing what I was doing. They gave my day structure and a sense of purpose. It started to take less time to get out of the house and gradually my confidence grew too.

I now recognise more than ever how much nature brings to my life. I was brought up on the edge of the Peak District and pretty much every weekend, we would go for a walk. My school looked out on rolling hills and the need for green seeped into my bones.

Feeling part of nature has been shown to significantly impact on life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness and our overall happiness.

It seems like I’m not the only one. A study by Derby University and the Wildlife Trust looked at how health and happiness were influenced by nature. Researchers measured the impact taking part in the Wildlife Trusts 30 Days of Wildness and asked participants to take part in a survey about their health and happiness before, during and two months afterwards.

The results were illuminating. An additional 30% of people said their health was excellent following the research. Respondents also reported greater feelings of happiness, connection to nature and active nature behaviours (feeding birds, planting flowers etc).

Dr Richardson from Derby University highlights research evidence available that exposure to nature can improve hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses. It also has a positive impact on vitality and mood, anxiety and mental fatigue. Feeling part of nature has been shown to significantly impact on life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness and our overall happiness.

Accessing nature in the city

Living in a city may feel harder to access nature but there are steps we can take to make sure we’re still getting some benefits. These include taking a walk around lunchtime to make sure we’re getting Vitamin D, having an ‘urban garden’ on a windowsill and researching what’s around you. There are over 41 nature reserves managed by the London Wildlife Trust and a quick look at their website has shown me two in my local area including a centre for wildlife gardening just 15 minute’s walk away.

Even just looking out of a window at a tree has been shown to lower stress. It’s such an easy thing to do – yet makes a real difference to how we feel.

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