Dr Lucy Loveday’s Summer Nature Wellbeing Toolkit ©
This year, The Lost Gardens have teamed up with local GP Dr Lucy Loveday who strongly advocates the role of Nature within healthcare, after all Nature offers the best medicine cabinet anybody can wish for!
There is a growing body of evidence and research, supporting the wellbeing and health benefits that Nature can offer. Dr Loveday and the Heligan Team have created a Wellbeing Experience specific to Heligan’s summer seasonal highlights for you to enjoy.
For those of you that have journeyed on our Wellbeing Experience this summer at The Lost Gardens, Dr Lucy Loveday has put together her Nature Toolkit and some great pointers for further reading.
We hope that this gives you some understanding of the science behind the activities we invited you to experience on your journey with us.
We also hope that you feel inspired to take this knowledge and transfer it to wherever you journey in Nature, adding an extra depth, connection and meaning to your interactions whilst being safe in the knowledge that you are getting a natural boost!
If you'd like to follow Lucy on social media, you can do so by clicking the following links.
Dr Lucy Loveday’s Nature Toolkit © and further reading tips
Trees: Forest - bathing "shinrin-yoku"
Intuitively, we know that walking in forests makes us feel better. Research teams in Japan have been studying the health and wellbeing benefits of "shinrin-yoku" which literally translates as "forest-bathing" for some time. Scientists are also studying the effects of phytoncides which are volatile organic compounds produced by plants and trees.
According to Dr Qing Li and Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki this practice, of immersing oneself in nature and taking in the forest through the senses doesn't just have psychological benefits but has a physiological effect too.
Research teams in Japan have shown that the benefits of forest-bathing include:
- improved sleep quality
- lower stress levels
- lower levels of hormones such as cortisol (when you are feeling stressed your cortisol levels rise)
- reduced blood pressure
- increase heart-rate variability (high heart rate variability indicates low stress levels)
- improve mood
- enhanced immune system function
There is so much joy to be had through taking in the sights of nature. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, pioneering research is showing that experiencing natural images involving patterns called fractals has potential for therapeutic benefit too.
The term 'fractal' was first coined by a mathematician named Benoit Mandelbrot. Fractal objects feature repetitive patterns that recur on a progressively finer scale to create shapes of enormous visual complexity. Examples of fractal objects, which can be found in abundance in nature include: pine cones, peacock feathers, seashells, clouds, trees and snowflakes.
Whilst the research on natural fractals remains limited, Professor Richard Taylor and his team have demonstrated that exposure to images containing mid range D-value fractals favourably alters human neurophysiology, with the potential to lower stress.
At Heligan, it's all about gardening! And what better place to be to feel inspired and experience what is possible when it comes to growing all year round.
A recent study of nearly 8000 respondents using nationally representative data has shown that people who spend time in the garden to garden and relax are significantly more likely to report higher psychological wellbeing and good general health. And not only this, but garden users are 7% more likely to meet the nationally recommended guidelines for physical activity of 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity per week.
Green exercise refers to exercise that is undertaken in outdoor natural environments.
The benefits of regular physical activity are signficant, plentiful and far reaching. Regular physical activity is effective in reducing the risk of a number of health conditions including diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure and depression. Regular physical activity also improves mental health and benefits our wellbeing.
A review of the evidence comparing exercising in natural environments with exercising indoors found that 'green exercise' was associated with:
- decreased tension
- decreased feels of anger, depression and confusion
- increased energy
- greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement
Whilst more research is needed in this field, green exercise is certainly something to enjoy. Exercising outside lends itself to exploration and discovery too. Green exercise combines the evidence-based health benefits of physical activity with the distinct mental health and wellbeing benefits of being immersed in green space and nature.
This summer, try to get off your screen and move in the green!
Bird song & the sounds of nature
How often do you take a moment to really tune in to the sounds of nature? Listening to the extraordinary symphony of the natural world really is a beautiful experience that will nourish your soul.
An acoustic paradise of bird song, splashing water and the gentle sway of leaves in the breeze culminates in the auditory experience of listening to the sounds of nature offering a unique way to access nature wherever you are.
To date, much of the research in relation to sensing nature has focused on visual experiences. However, recent work by Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe at the University of Surrey explores the restorative potential and benefits of the auditory natural environment for health and wellbeing. Research has shown that some, but not all, bird sounds are associated with perceptions of restoration from stress and cognitive fatigue. Another recent research project led by Dr Sarah Bell called 'Sensing Nature' aims to understand more about how people living with sight-impairment experience nature in their daily lives.
If you are unable to go out into nature and/or you are interested to learn more about bringing the sounds of nature to your home, please refer to the resources section for more information.
It's not just green space that is proving its worth. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that contact with blue space also has potential to benefit the health and wellbeing of people of all ages. A ground-breaking study by Dr Jo Garrett and team has found that spending time in and around Hong Kong's blue spaces (harbours, beaches and coastlines) is linked to better health and wellbeing, particularly in older adults. Just having a view of the water was found to be beneficial too, with people able to see these blue spaces reporting better health.
The benefits of mindfulness are well researched. There is a strong evidence base to support practising mindfulness, as it has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, burnout and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.
Essentially mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment, your thoughts and feelings. Taking notice. Without judgment.
In a world that is increasingly dependant upon technology, it is so easy to find yourself on autopilot, rushing from one thing to the next. Being mindful helps you to be more present in the moment and appreciate life as it is happening now.
One, really easy and practical application of mindfulness in nature is to focus on the little things.
Let me explain....
First take a moment to pause and notice your breath.
Now notice something small in the landscape around you. Focus on what you find. It may be a tiny bee or a beautiful butterfly. It may be a passing cloud or the song of a nearby bird. Whatever you choose, just begin by focusing your attention on something small. Now breathe, notice and repeat. Relax .....
Further reading & resources
- ‘Shinrin-Yoku - The Art and Science of Forest-Bathing’ By Dr Qing Li
- ‘Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Way of Forest Bathing for Health and Relaxation’ by Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki
- ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ by Dara McAnulty
- ‘The Natural Health Service: What the Great Outdoors Can Do For Your Mind’ By Isabel Hardman
- ‘Your Brain on Nature. The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality’ By Eva M. Selhub and Alan C Logan
- ‘Bird Therapy’ by Joe Harkness
- ‘Meadowland: The private life of an English field’ by John Lewis-Stempel
- ‘Clouds That Look Like Things’ (From The Cloud Appreciation Society) Edited by Gavin Pretor-Pinney
- ‘The Invention of Nature. The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt. The Lost Hero of Science’ By Andrea Wulf
- RHS ‘The Magic and Mystery’ of Trees By Jen Green
- ‘Silence in the age of noise’ By Erling Kagge
- ‘Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ by Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman
- ‘Oxford Textbook of Nature and Public Health. The role of nature in improving the health of a population’ Edited by Matilda van den Bosch and William Bird
- European Centre for Environment & Human Health: http://www.ecehh.org
- Beyond Greenspace (University of Exeter Research on relationships between natural environments, health and wellbeing): http://www.beyondgreenspace.net
- Blue Health: https://bluehealth2020.eu/
- Virtual Nature: Exploring how digital experiences of the natural world can impact health and wellbeing. https://virtual-nature.com/
- Centre for Sustainable Healthcare: http://www.sustainablehealthcare.org.uk
- Thriving With Nature: A guide for all is available for FREE download: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/thriving-with-nature/guide