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We know a strong connection to nature is good for our mental health; now a new study sets out to measure just how much it can help our wellbeing. Image shows Wild at Heart volunteers holding the nature activity bags which form part of the study.

We know a strong connection to nature is good for our mental health; now a new study sets out to measure just how much it can help.

[lead]That’s the question a new study is hoping to answer. Wild at Heart, the social prescribing project from Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, has created a nature activity pack for 100 of its participants. The packs are full of resources and suggested nature connection activities for people to try out. Participants will be asked to complete a survey before taking part, and after six weeks. A team of researchers from the University of Derby will analyse the results to assess the impact of the activities on nature connectedness, wellbeing and loneliness.[/lead]

The project has been made possible thanks to a £24,295 grant from the Cadent Foundation, who is generously supporting community projects such as this one. This has enabled Wild at Heart to work with the University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group to evaluate the project and contribute towards research into the importance of nature connection for wellbeing.

Wild at Heart Project Officer Jenny King explains:

“Nature connection is the relationship a person has with the rest of nature rather than seeing it as something other. By creating a closer personal connection to nature, we can use this as a tool when we are feeling low. It’s more than a one size fits all, telling people to go outside and you will feel better!

One tip we suggest for participants to try is to create a habit of noticing three good things in nature – a simple way to do this is to look out of a window each day and note down what you see, hear, how it makes you feel; anything that resonates with you. Getting into the habit of noticing the positive, helps us see the world in a more positive light.

The Nature Activity bags contain all the materials and supplies for participants to do their own nature arts & crafts, wildlife watching, nature walks, and other nature connection activities at home. The purpose of all these activities is to help people engage with nature and boost their own wellbeing.

A lot of the pack content has come from participants, who have tried and tested these activities with Wild at Heart in the past. We found co-creating content and encouraging our volunteers to get involved with the design and delivery of the project has had some really positive results. They even volunteered to deliver the bags!

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we adapted the way we work completely, moving from face-to-face sessions to a variety of methods like delivering social sessions on Zoom, friendly phone calls, and creating packs so people who are housebound, shielding or have mobility issues could still take part in our session from their own home.

Engaging with local community groups including BFriend and New Beginnings, who specialise in working with more diverse and under-served communities, has allowed our project to reach people who might not otherwise have the resources to get involved and access the benefits from connecting with nature.

Our experience shows Wild at Heart participants increase their sense of well-being, build confidence and become more resilient. We hope this project will help to quantify the benefits of nature connection, and support the provision of more good quality health and wellbeing programmes a