Nature and health: the benefits of living with nature
Spending time in nature reminds us that we are part of something bigger. It can help us disconnect from our screens and brings huge joy, as well as being a great way to spend time with our family and friends. According to Mental health charity Mind, time spent in nature is proven to boost our mood, increase our physical activity, reduce stress and aid relaxation.
In fact, ‘connecting with nature’ was the theme for last month’s Mental Health Awareness Week, with the nation encouraged to notice, think about and appreciate our natural surroundings. According to The Mental Health Foundation, these are critical factors in supporting good mental health and preventing distress. Nature in this sense includes green spaces such as parks, woodland and forests, as well as blue spaces like rivers, wetlands, beaches and canals. It also includes urban green space such as trees on streets, private gardens, verges and even indoor plants or window boxes. The foundation even describes the positive benefits for our mental health of watching nature documentaries on TV, meaning nature is available and accessible to everyone, no matter where you live.
Activities like growing your own fruit and vegetables, wildlife watching and opening up new opportunities to socialise outdoors can also improve confidence and reduce anxiety. Taking on a new challenge like 30 Days Wild , created by The Wildlife Trusts, is also a great way to set yourself a goal to connect with nature and support our environment.
We’re committed to creating nature for people in and around the new homes we’re building. This means improving wildlife habitats, providing diverse planting and creating homes for nature, while encouraging people to spend time outdoors by creating open areas of green space to be enjoyed by residents and the wider community. We also want to help homeowners to make the most of parks, woodlands and play areas in their local area, so where we can we’re improving cycle and footpath links to local community green spaces.
Providing access to good quality open spaces close to home is one of the ways we’re helping to create a better way to live and responding to our customers’ changing priorities, particularly post lockdown.
How to make the most of your local green space
Nicola Johansen, our Group sustainability manager, says: “Throughout lockdown, people have taken solace in the natural environment and we’ve seen first-hand how the pandemic inspired residents across our communities to better connect with nature in their local neighbourhoods and the positive impact it has had on their wellbeing.”
There are lots of ways you can enjoy your local green space. Walking, running and cycling are all fantastic and free ways we can get out and about and enjoy the great outdoors on our doorstep. However, have you thought about one of these great activities that can ensure you spend even more time outside?
- Picnic with your pals in a local green space.
- Arrange a litter pick – on your own or in a group. Many community councils can provide you with a litter grabber and bags or you can pick one up very affordably.
- Join a tree planting event – look online for events taking place in your local area.
- Start a summer book club and meet others to read outdoors or discuss books you’ve enjoyed. Or start a community library / book swap in your local area and set up a reading bench nearby.
- Join a sports club or get your friends together for a game of cricket or rounders.
- Join a local landscape art group or take up watercolour painting outdoors on your own.
- Go for a walk and create a nature bracelet. Children will love picking up fallen leaves and flowers and sticking them to masking tape (sticky side out!) around their wrist.
- Grab some binoculars and go bird watching; you can do this anywhere whether it’s in a local park or out of your bedroom window. Check out the RSPB’s website for more information .
- Discover a new nature trail or undertake the 30 Days Wild Challenge.
Nature for people on our developments
We’re working in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts to enhance nature and protect and improve biodiversity on our developments. In the UK, 41% of animal species have declined between 1970 and 2016 and a recent index shows the UK to be one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
We’re in a unique position to be able to do something about this and our nature for people strategy, developed in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts, sets out our commitments for our developments under three key themes – nature gains, rewilding lives and a flourishing legacy.
Some examples of how we have already begun to create richly diverse habitats for wildlife include a special bat house we’ve created at our Mill Meadows development, on the site of a former papermill, in Sudbrook, South Wales. This has already seen a breeding population of the endangered Lesser Horseshoe bat established. Given they had never bred on this site before, this is a huge success story for our work protecting them and the potential recovery of the species.
Over at Saxon Brook, in Pinhoe, Devon, we’ve created the UK’s first ever pollinator friendly housing development featuring wildflower planting and an educational bumblebee trail, providing a boost for nation’s declining bumblebee population. We’ve also planted an orchard of 70 fruit trees and created ponds, rain (wetland) gardens, woodland areas and allotments plus new bird and bat boxes, insect ‘hotels’ and barn owl box improvements.
And in Buckley, North Wales, we tripled the newt population in just one year in the new ponds at our Heathlands development, which alongside a nine-hectare residential development boasts around the same amount of public green space and nature reserve habitats.
Find more info about the benefits of nature to your mental health on the Mind website.