How we're making a positive difference to people’s lives

Friday 9th February 2018

Photo credit: David Tipling/2020VISION

Children’s Mental Health Week (5–11th Feb) is all about encouraging young people and adults to celebrate their uniqueness. This year’s campaign is all about highlighting the importance of #BeingOurselves and here at the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside we couldn’t agree more.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust are delivering numerous projects aimed at improving individual’s mental health through increased contact with nature and wildlife. In some recent research conducted by the University of Essex on behalf of The Wildlife Trusts, nature volunteering was shown to improve the wellbeing of 95% of participants who took part. Participants reported significantly enhanced feelings of positivity, increased general health, pro-environmental behaviour, higher levels of physical activity and more contact with greenspace.

But, why is contact with nature so beneficial to people’s confidence and mental health? There are many positives to spending time outside. Natural surroundings have been found to promote feelings of calm and safety and increase an individual’s capacity to be present in the moment. Being out in nature is also usually associated with social activities that help people to feel part of a group and make social interactions with others. Finally, through engagement with meaningful activities individuals can develop new skills and a sense of achievement, responsibility and increased confidence. 

Our Myplace project is an excellent example of some of the work we are delivering to benefit people’s mental health. This exciting eco-therapy project, delivered by ourselves and Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust focuses on 5 key themes to improve people’s physical and mental wellbeing. The 5 key themes include practical conservation work, wildlife walks, mindful environments, growing projects and bushcraft, and help to empower people and engage them with nature. Individuals also develop stronger connections with their communities and reconnect with their local environments. This gives them the opportunities to learn new skills, build resilience and improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

“I come every week and don’t like missing it…Getting out in nature makes me feel like I’ve been born again” Lucy, Myplace participant.

Forest Schools is another Lancashire Wildlife Project that offers a unique outdoor learning experience thanks to support from the Peoples Postcode Lottery. Children are encouraged to explore and learn in nature helping them to improve their self-esteem and skill development. The forest school sessions help to stimulate creativity, improve self-esteem and teach children new skills with activities such as shelter-building, green woodworking, natural art and fire-lighting. Over a number of weeks, children are given the chance to play and explore their own interests, enabling them to direct their learning and develop a relationship with nature.

Myplace and Forest School are two projects specifically designed to benefit people, making them feel more confident and capable. However, many of our projects also provide indirect benefits to peoples wellbeing through providing opportunities to get outside and volunteer with tasks that benefit communities.

If you would like to find out more please contact esherlock@lancswt.org.uk or visit project pages Myplace or Forest Schools.

Photo credit: David Tipling/2020VISION, Katrina Martin / 2020VISION and Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION