Connect to nature to improve your health and the environment

Our health advisor, Jess Williams, talks about how spending time enjoying nature is good for us and the natural environment too, and offers ways to make the most of the outdoors this winter.

Go outside and carry on

For many people, the challenges of COVID-19 have highlighted the value the outdoors brings to our lives.  

In having to find new ways to go about our days – to live, work, learn and play - the solution has often been to move our activities outside where we can carry on while keeping a safe distance from each other in the fresh air.

This year, we’ve been encouraged to move our social life outside and meet our friends and family in parks and public spaces. And, because of the pandemic, we have seen a fourfold increase in schools looking to deliver their learning outdoors.

Being in nature improves wellbeing

For some people, noticing nature close to home during lockdowns provided them with well-needed solace and the reassurance that life carries on.

As we head into winter, keeping that connection with nature is more important than ever, and will help us manage the uncertainties of the global pandemic and the difficulty fewer social connections bring.

There is a lot of evidence to show that being in the natural environment is beneficial for your wellbeing in many ways. 

Being in nature can:

  • help improve your mood by reducing your levels of stress and anxiety
  • be beneficial in creating good sleep habits
  • boost your immune function
  • stimulate creativity
  • support your physical health

Connecting to nature is good for the environment

The benefits don’t end there. A connection to nature is also favourable for the natural environment too.

Through learning to appreciate and value nature we are more likely to take steps towards becoming an advocate for it and protect it for future generations to enjoy too.

Our Progression Steps model shows how being in, and connecting with, the natural environment can influence positive behaviours that will encourage us to look after our world.

Ways to connect with nature in winter

As we move into winter and the days draw in, the shorter daylight hours can make getting outdoors more difficult.

Here are some ways to make the most of our wonderful natural environment in Wales this winter while following the Welsh Government’s coronavirus guidelines.

Get away in the middle of the day

Make the most of the daylight hours by wrapping up and getting outside for a few minutes while it is light each day.  This could be a walk to the local park, a potter in your garden or just standing outside your front door.

If you work from home it can be easy to miss the window of opportunity to get outside and receive the benefits of nature, so make the most of your breaks to get outdoors.

Explore from your front door

At a time when travel is limited, discovering the natural spaces on your doorstep is a fun challenge. You could find a new local park or river, or rediscover an old favourite spot.

If you’re looking for inspiration, you can find your nearest woodland or nature reserve with our Places to Visit web page.

Walk and talk

Think about swapping a video call for a socially distanced walking meeting. There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests walking meetings are more enjoyable, more productive and are better for our physical health too.

Green the screen

Evidence suggests that even looking at an image of nature has positive qualities. While there are greater benefits if you can touch, smell and hear the natural environment, changing your screen saver to a scenic image or putting plants around you may also have an uplifting effect.

Use your feet on the street

Make the most of your opportunities to be outside by making your commute or other essential journey as active as you can.  Try leaving the car and walking a little further, or keep your bike rust-free by committing to riding it a few times a week.

It’s a win-win situation!

By making an effort to spend time in the natural environment and appreciate it’s worth, both you and the environment can benefit. You’ll not only feel mentally and physically better for being outdoors, you will also be building a strong connection with nature and taking steps toward protecting it for the future.

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