Connect with nature and brighten darkest days

An annual challenge to spend time closer to nature every day in June can reduce feelings of stress, depression and bewilderment, says Abbie Hargreaves

Picture shows an older man being assisted by a medic in a promotional picture for the 30 Days Wild challenge.

Everyone is being urged to do something that connects them with nature in June, in an annual challenge led by The Wildlife Trusts called 30 Days Wild. These daily ‘random acts of wildness’ can be anything– it’s not about heading out into the wilderness but more about noticing the wild in the everyday.

When 30 Days Wild began in 2015 it was designed with three audiences in mind – individuals and their families, schools and businesses.

After hearing about several care homes taking part independently, The Wildlife Trusts started to see the amazing effect the challenge could have on their residents.

Residents with dementia and physical and mental healthcare needs became less agitated

Louise Baker of Your Health Ltd, a residential and nursing care home provider, pioneered 30 Days Wild in the group of homes she worked for and wrote a blog on the benefits that connecting with nature had on residents.

One of her observations was that residents living with dementia and varying physical and mental healthcare needs became less agitated, and this increased level of calm meant fewer falls.

Ms Baker’s observations inspired The Wildlife Trusts to create the first 30 Days Wild care homes pack last year, specially designed to accommodate older or vulnerable people.

Participation brings improved mental well-being

Unsure what uptake would be like in its first year, they were delighted when 570 residential care homes signed up. Reports came flooding in of residents watching birds on newly filled feeders and painting wild landscapes in watercolours.

Alongside qualitative feedback from staff and residents, The Wildlife Trusts have carried out research with the University of Derby on how the challenge affects health and well-being.

Participants were surveyed at three points throughout the campaign – at the start of June, at the end of the month and then again two months later. The findings show that participation results in an increased connection with nature, improved mental well-being and an increase in pro-nature conservation behaviours during June and for at least two months after.

Stimulus of nature improves cognitive function, aids sensory and reminiscence therapy

Those who at first felt the least connected to nature gained the most benefits, and the challenge encouraged participants to be more active, boosting their health beyond the 30 days.

The findings suggest that even spending a short time in nature can reduce feelings of stress, depression and bewilderment. Nature has many stimuluses that help improve cognitive function and aid sensory and reminiscence therapy.

As those delivering front-line care will understand better than anyone, COVID-19 has meant changes needed to be made to 30 Days Wild this year, in view of restrictions on movement and contact. Rather than a postal pack, this year’s challenge will be digital.

It is possible to reap nature’s benefits despite restrictions on our usual lives

However, The Wildlife Trusts are still confident that it is possible to reap nature’s benefits, despite the restrictions on our usual lives. Random acts of wildness can include watching wildlife webcams, reading a book about nature or listening to birdsong

If people can go outside and have a safe space to do so, they can experience the feeling of grass on their bare feet, watch bees on flowers or even plant a mini meadow. 

The Wildlife Trusts want to see everyone connected with nature, no matter how that looks. It doesn’t have to be hilly adventures or wanders through woodlands – we know that even the smallest interaction with nature can brighten our darkest days.

Abbie Hargreaves is marketing officer at The Wildlife Trusts 

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