The love of all living things
Our connections with nature run deep. Since we first lit fire, the natural world has provided our homes, clothes, food, heat, tools, resources and reason for being. It should therefore come as no surprise that we as humans possess an innate desire to connect with nature and the outdoors.
Modern lives have disconnected us from nature in many ways and although we remain dependent on natural resources in all aspects of our lives, we are generally less aware of this relationship. We believe that if people are to value the natural world, they need to love it, and to love it they first need to connect with it.
Unfortunately, access to nature has become increasingly unequal and the most vulnerable members of society tend to have much more limited opportunities to access greenspaces. Our work is about ensuring there is access for all people.
Nature is good for us
There is an increasing body of evidence demonstrating that exposure to and engagement with nature and greenspace positively impacts our health and wellbeing. It calms us, improves sleep patterns, energises us, motivates us and regulates serotonin levels, for example.
There is a reason we seek out views of the countryside, feel better after breathing in sea air and marvel at the smell of rain on a summer day.
Contact with nature reduces stress, reduces mental fatigue, promotes blood flow and bolsters our mood. It is something that we subconsciously seek out on a daily basis. This idea of building daily connections with nature underpins our work.
Children and nature
In an era of screen culture both at home and in school children are in danger of spending less time outdoors than the generations before them. The benefits of contact with nature for healthy development are widely documented. Contact with nature delivers a holistic approach to learning; it improves concentration, promotes independence and builds communication skills.
The benefits of contact with nature can be particularly valuable for children with additional needs. Spending quality time outdoors can help reduce pain, focus attention, reduce anxiety and compulsive behaviour, enhance appetite and good sleeping patterns and help build a stronger immune system.
Ageing and nature
With a shift in demographics and an ageing population, it is more and more important to be looking at what it means to be healthy and happy in older age. Nature and the outdoors can play a key role in sustaining good health as well as supporting people to live well with health conditions.
Thoughtful design of outdoor spaces motivates people to be more physically active, to develop social networks and find new hobbies and interests.
Social isolation and public spaces
Social isolation is becoming a major public health issue. Increasingly we are addressing some of the issues of loneliness and social isolation by running some of our activity groups in outdoor public spaces.
We want to support disadvantaged people to be active and visible in their communities, removing some of the stigma and mystery surrounding disability and building new social networks. Our activity group participants gain confidence in leaving the house by being out and about with a group of others offering mutual support.
Equal access to nature
Access to outdoor spaces or simply just opening a door and walking outside isn’t easy for everyone. From the pavement outside the house to the gated entrance to the park, barriers exist for many people. We work with people, businesses and communities to overcome barriers and create more inclusive opportunities to get outside and benefit from nature.
Links to research and reading
- University of Derby Nature Connectedness Research Group, led by Prof Miles Richardson, is researching the relationship between people and the natural world.
- Sensing Nature is research led by Sarah Bell and focused on the relationship between visual impairment and the natural world.
- A wonder n the garden, by Tony Kendle, combines research and insights to show how our nearby nature can be all we need to enter a world of natural awe and wonder.
- Environmental actions are motivated by personal experiences, a University of Michigan study shows how people's personal experiences with nature may work better than dire warnings to motivate environmental action. This is echoed in the European study 'Motivation to preserve biodiversity'.