In challenging times nature close to home can lend a hand

  • Contributor information: CNP

27 Jan 2021

It’s not how we wanted to start the year, but due to the prevalence of COVID-19 we find ourselves bound by Government restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus. Sadly, for many of us that means we are currently unable to enjoy the National Parks that helped us through a very challenging year in 2020 in person. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t find other ways to get a nature boost.

Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness at University of Derby, explains…

The benefits of being out in nature are increasingly recognised, but those simple freedoms are currently restricted – there is a need to stay closer to home. This is difficult, but a close relationship with nature matters just as much as visiting natural landscapes for wellbeing. This close relationship isn’t dependent on taking a trip to your favourite National Park, it can be made at – or very close to – home.

During the restrictions to control the coronavirus pandemic, people have been discovering this – they’ve spent more time in nature and taken more notice of it too. Recent research by the University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group into nature visits, and noticing nature during the coronavirus restrictions, has confirmed the importance of tuning into nature.

We found that, although a pre-pandemic relationship with nature was important for wellbeing, it was more recent increases in noticing nature that were associated with a greater sense of having a worthwhile life.

Here are three ways in which ‘everyday’ local nature can help…

1) Noticing Nature

Noticing and enjoying the simple things in everyday nature really does make a difference. Listening to the birds chatter and enjoying the shapes of winter trees can often be done close to home. We’ve found that actively noticing the good things in nature benefits mental health significantly.

2) Nature helps manage moods

Nature can help manage our moods and emotions. The ability to keep our emotions regulated is important for wellbeing. Through helping balance our moods, nature helps maintain positive emotions and brings greater resilience. Let nearby nature bring joy and calm to help manage your emotions.

3) Nature connection can help with social isolation

We know social relationships are really important for wellbeing, so clearly social distancing presents a challenge to keeping well. As social animals we’re also part of the wider natural world. Research has found that nearby nature can help us feel connected, buffering the effect of low social interactions. So, when noticing nature, find a friend nearby; be it the local birds, a favoured tree, or squirrels in the park.

Further reading…

For more resources to help nature lend a hand, see the University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group’s coronavirus resources page. It’s also worth following official National Park Authority and National Park Society social media accounts as most are sharing beautiful photos and videos to bring the Parks to you; as is Campaign for National Parks via its Instagram account.

Finally, nature is important, but it can’t do it all. For wider information on mental health and wellbeing at this time see this guidance from Mind.

Photo by Steve Burnett taken in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park