Connecting With Everyday Nature

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a considerable amount of research into our mental and physical well being, the importance of access to natural environments and the strategies used across the world in response to the virus.

A recent paper published in The Lancet has looked at how strict strategies which sought to suppress the virus impacted negatively on the mental wellbeing of citizens in comparison to those which were aimed at eliminating the virus.

The researchers looked at how some countries adopted ambitious elimination strategies with zero community transmission targets. Other countries chose to slow down transmission through a mix of intermittent lockdowns, workplace, business, and school closings, social distancing, the wearing of face masks, and the cancellation of public gatherings and public transport. This was the strategy adopted by the Scottish Government inline with the other nations of the UK.

Eliminator countries like South Korea and Japan implemented early and targeted actions such as international travel restrictions, testing, and contact tracing, which resulted in lower levels of COVID-19 infections and enabled them to opt for more lenient domestic containment strategies.

In contrast, mitigator countries such as France and the UK opted for less prohibitive international travel restrictions and aimed to control – rather than eliminate – the virus through strict and lengthy domestic policy measures including physical distancing and stay-at-home requirements.

The study found that psychological distress and lower life evaluations were more prevalent in countries like those of the UK that adopted strategies aimed at suppressing the virus compared to those with strategies to eliminate Covid-19

Dr Rafael Goldszmidt, explained:

“Strategies that aim to eliminate transmission while promoting early actions and targeted stringency can reduce deaths while also protecting people’s mental health in the process. At the same time, governments need to provide clear and consistent information about policy measures to increase residents’ confidence in the government’s handling of the pandemic.” – Policy stringency and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: a longitudinal analysis of data from 15 countries

Connecting with Nature

Valuing outdoor spaces and being able to access the natural environment has played a key role in supporting people especially during long periods of lockdown.

There is nothing new in this because Scot Patrick Geddes was arguing this a hundred years ago. As open areas are being eaten up by developers, being able to be outside in ‘breathing spaces’ is vital for our mental wellbeing.

 Patrick Geddes:

  • Scottish biologist
  • sociologist
  • geographer
  • philanthropist
  • pioneering town planner.

“this is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent on the leaves. By leaves we live. “

The Orkney News has published many walks by Bernie Bell, at all levels of difficulty, where people can safely explore the land and seascape of the islands.

Image credit: Bell

Scotland has much to offer. The East Cairngorms Wildlife and Nature Trail has been recently launched by the Ballater Business Association (BBA) and Braemar Tourism Group (BTG). It even has a Jacobite whisky trail.

In a study published by the Mental Health Foundation, it was found that ‘ even watching nature documentaries has been shown to be good for our mental health. ‘

The study found that 45% of the people they surveyed told them that visiting green spaces, such as parks, helped them to cope with the restrictions of lockdown.

Across Scotland parks and gardens are coming into bloom.

Rothesay Gardens, Image credit Kenny Armet

The study by the Mental Health Foundation also found that when it comes to accessing the natural environment there is an equality divide with:

” deprived communities least likely to live near a high quality nature space. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our poll found that people living in urban areas were less likely than rural residents to connect with nature as much as they wanted, and people without gardens less likely than those with gardens. Younger adults in particular may face many barriers to connecting with nature.”

For people with disabilities there are also issues with accessibility to many places.

The study has a key message:

The key message of this research evidence is a need to shift our attention from focusing on getting people to visit natural and sometimes remote spaces, to focusing on how people can tune in and connect with “everyday” nature close to home through simple activities. We can develop a new relationship with the natural world by noticing nature, and that doing so has been found to bring benefits in mental health.

How Connecting With Nature Benefits Our Mental Health
Kirkwall’s secret garden

Check out the walks you can do in Orkney by using the search button.

Fiona Grahame

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