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Clay model holding a sign saying we want to live

30 Sep 2022

How nature interventions ease anxiety and depression

Article by Wendy Brewin

artwork by Lizzie Stevens image credit Sensory Trust

Workforce blues

In any given week in England 8 out of 100 adults experience mixed anxiety and depression. It is also estimated that around 822,000 workers are currently affected by work-related stress (Health and Safety Executive).

We all know that modern life means we’re busier than we’ve ever been. Juggling more and more personal, domestic, and work demands, living up to expectations of perfection and with little priority for stress-releasing self-care. It is no surprise then that poor mental health is on the increase, with the most common cause of stress being work-related.

We find ourselves tethered to devices designed to make us feel more connected, but instead, this hyper-connection results in us drifting away from authentic human and ecological ones.

Workplaces are taking action

Forward thinking workplaces are beginning to act and recognise that by providing support to their staff via health plans they can reduce the number of sick days and increase productivity through a happier and more productive workforce. These health plans often include paying for counselling sessions to help combat anxiety and stress.

There are other ways that the mental health of our UK workforce can be supported. Nature is often referred to as the 'Natural Health Service'; and terms such as green therapy, blue therapy, and eco-therapy, amongst others, are gaining traction. This all demonstrates that spending time outside isn’t just something we should do in our spare time but can provide real benefits to our physical and emotional health. All of which are backed up with established evidence.

It's time to Dig Deeper

Our Dig Deeper project is one such opportunity. Funded by The National Lottery and People’s Postcode Trust, it offers the chance for people with stress and anxiety to engage with nature in ways they wouldn’t normally consider. We know that for someone with anxiety it is much easier to chat with people and make friends when you have a practical task to do together, and the outdoors provides the perfect backdrop. We use familiar technology such as smartphones to help people explore and discover nature on a micro level, getting closer to nature and seeing it from new angles. Insects become giants, and soil and sand transform into alien landscapes. Tiny forms of aquatic life hidden from the naked eye are revealed through microscopic exploration.

Each session has a theme. We can be examining life within woodland soil one week and discovering how our senses can alter the way we connect with nature the next. Everyone is encouraged to record their experiences in journals which form part of our evaluation. These journals, however, have another, more important function; they become a self-care tool. Rereading past experiences can help generate positive emotions and memories of time spent outdoors helping our group members to cope better when moments of anxiety and stress arise.

Two people sit on chairs outdoors studying nature through their phones

So, if you're interested in making your workplace feel happier and more positive or if you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, stress or burnout why not consider our Dig Deeper sessions.

Dig Deeper sessions run weekly in Cornwall for adults aged 18-65. Sessions are free and pre-bookable. For more information or to self refer please contact us.