If you're a fan of nature then you'll know it can be a source of solace, and our wild, watery landscapes filled with life are no different. You probably don't need any encouragement to get out there. Yet sometimes we could all do with resetting after stressful times, and instead of focusing on what we're doing, seeing or achieving next, taking time in the moment to notice the little things and slow our brains down so that we can just - breathe.
Nature connection is an internationally recognised scientific expression, the correct term being “nature connectedness” as defined by pioneering work from the University of Derby. We know that simple exposure to nature is good for us. However, connection with nature is something more meaningful and deeper than exposure. Here are some of the ways we might do this:
1. Engage all our senses – touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste. Sight is often the least important.
2. Explore our positive emotional bonds through nature with experiences that instil calmness and happiness.
3. Look for beauty in things, such as appreciating natural scenery or engaging with nature through art and music.
4. Look for the hidden meanings, emphasise traditions, localness, seasonality and language – nature is everywhere, from folklore to place names.
5. Show compassion by developing a moral and ethical concern for nature, such as making ethical product choices or helping to make life better for wildlife.
The NHS is also clean on its five steps to mental wellbeing, all of which work well with spending more time on outdoor activities:
Everyone is different – you may find certain methods create a greater connection for you than others. In this particular article, we are going to explore some practical exercises you can try when out and about at our wetland centres, or any natural space. Even if you've never tried mindfulness before, our partners the Mental Health Foundation have some helpful advice to get you going.
…it’s a feeling of peace, uplifting, it’s healthy. I think for anyone who’s got something on their mind, after five or 10 minutes walking, and just noticing something in nature, they can leave their stresses and troubles behind. It’s hugely healthy.
-Testimony from a WWT member
You’ve probably already heard of the term mindfulness. It’s essentially a way to help yourself be more present, intentionally aware of everything going on around you. It's a technique that was developed by doctors to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. And evidence shows that although not a cure-all, it can be beneficial for many: the Mental Health Foundation says that "people undertaking mindfulness training have shown increased activity in the area of the brain associated with positive emotion – the pre-frontal cortex – which is generally less active in people who are depressed."
And the good news is you don’t have to be sitting on a meditation pillow in a dark room. You can do it as you wander through a wetland…
These short practices might help you take a step back from your own thoughts and focus on the world around you, whether you’re staying local or out in the wild.
If you can't get outside for whatever reason but still want to enjoy the sounds and sights of our wetlands, research has shown that even watching videos or looking at pictures of nature can have a calming effect. Take a minute out of a busy day with five simple exercises alongside soothing footage of wetland nature on our reserves.
This content was produced in collaboration with The Mental Health Foundation
The Mental Health Foundation has a wealth of resources full of simple, inexpensive and practical tips to help you look after your mental health, as well as specific mental health advice related to the challenges of lockdown.
Public Health England has developed explicit guidance on mental health in the crisis. If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can also visit the
PHE Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.
Wetlands can provide blue spaces that are especially beneficial to wellbeing, helping people to adopt healthy and more sustainable behaviour (e.g. active travel), inducing positive mood and reducing stress. We want to create more accessible blue spaces close to where people live in urban areas by improving wetlands and creating sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) such as ponds or rain gardens. Find out more about our wellbeing research and programme at wwt.org.uk/wellbeing
Whether it is a stroll through one of our reserves, an hour spent quietly in a hide with some binoculars or hand-feeding our friendly geese, these connections with our natural world do something to us that fundamentally affects our sense of wellbeing. Here are some easy tips to get you out of that lockdown slump.
In partnership with Mental Health Foundation and WWT, The Blue Prescribing Project is an innovative wetland-based health programme, designed to enhance people’s connection with nature and improve their wellbeing.Learn more