Connecting with nature to lessen anxiety and promote positive wellbeing

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust have adapted their work to connect people with nature over lockdown to combat stress and anxiety.

The last year has been a challenging time for everyone but staff at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust have been finding new ways to connect people with the natural world to improve wellbeing and confidence and learn new skills.

Supported with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, the Trust have been running online groups where they inspire people to explore the nature on their doorsteps and connect with others for support and friendship. Groups have been aimed at those who are currently struggling with mental health issues, are feeling isolated or stressed and focus on the ‘five ways to wellbeing’: take notice, connect, be active, learn and give. Participants meet online regularly to discuss what local wildlife they’ve seen and share knowledge and experience. Over 30 people have already participated with further courses planned to run through the spring and summer.

The Trust’s Engagement Manager Julia Morton says: “the people we have worked with through our online courses have made new friendships, changed their relationship with nature and, in some cases, have gone on to take up a volunteering role with Herefordshire Wildlife Trust in our wellbeing garden or on our reserves. One participant, Andy, joined an online course last year and has developed his love of nature and wildlife knowledge such that he has been successful in his recent application to become a Volunteer Trainee Reserves Officer with the Trust – a year-long position. For some people, joining an online session has been less daunting than coming straight out to meet new people at a new site then, as people build confidence, we can offer further opportunities.”

Photo of screen with four people on a video call.

The funding has also allowed the Trust to take on an Outdoor Wellbeing Officer, Karen Roberts who adds: “Research shows that experiencing and appreciating nature boosts wellbeing as well as having a positive effect on physical health by reducing blood pressure, slowing breathing and stimulating our ‘happiness hormones’. I’m really looking forward to welcoming people back to our Forest Wellbeing Garden at Queenswood Country Park where we’ll be offering nature connectedness and therapeutic gardening sessions.”

Online groups run as part of the Trust’s Nature Nurture Nourish project have been funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and additional support will now come from the Thriving Communities Fund to work with the residents of HR9, in particular people who are rurally isolated, the over 65 and Carers.

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