As we bade farewell to the grey and gloom of February I feel that we can all look forward to the onset of spring and the rebirth of nature all around us.
Dainty wildflowers begin to add a pop of colour to woodlands and hedgerows; invertebrates and small mammals emerge from wintry hideaways and it’s time to get outside with a spring in one’s step.
It’s at this time of year that our nature reserves prove to be uplifting and invigorating places to be. Human evolution has developed around a close connection with nature but busy, tech driven lifestyles often lead to a loss of this evolutionary bond as we spend less and less time outdoors. Recent studies show that taking time out to reconnect with nature can have a positive effect on overall health while living near bird life is particularly relevant in supporting mental wellbeing.
The RSPB first started looking at the health benefits of nature over ten years ago. Now, following on from this work we are exploring ways to support people’s health through nature-based activities. Using questionnaires to monitor the results of people taking part in a range of conservation and nature themed events, overall mental wellbeing was seen to improve.
But we don’t have to rely on living close to heathlands, woods and nature reserves to feel the benefits of being close to nature. Improving our health and staying happy is as easy as a walk in the park.
The Communities and Local Government Committee published a report on public parks last month and a strong theme throughout it was the health benefits that parks and other green spaces provide. It seems that half of us regularly use parks and 90% of households with children under the age of five use their local park at least once a month. These urban green spaces ensure everyone can have access to nature in a safe environment and enjoy a ‘biodiversity rich’ experience.
The Walks at King’s Lynn is an historic municipal park that links local communities and nature in an effective and enterprising way. Visitors can enjoy meandering pathways that lead to wide open spaces and small islands set in waterways full of wildfowl. Taking a stroll in natural surroundings is more likely to stimulate mental activity and increase levels of serotonin – great for that break away from the office or college! For families, The Walks provides areas of safe play that invite children to learn through movement, develop their imaginations and have sensory experiences. All of these vehicles stimulate healthy minds and bodies and create positive memories.
Researchers from Holland have found that spending time in natural surroundings helps us slow down and make more considered decisions for our future. Our levels of optimism rise and we are less prone to make rash decisions. The outdoors is often the place that people go to reflect, wind down and collect their thoughts. and may explain the presence of so many benches in our parks and green spaces.