One of the arguments we Wild Ones have always made when we talk to others about the benefits of using native plants in natural landscaping is how good it makes us feel — how it gives us a sense of place. I’ve never really felt comfortable trying to explain that personal statement. I know how being outside and observing the wonder of nature makes me feel, but I have never been comfortable trying to explain that feeling to others.
I ran across a report the other day that helps to support that statement. It’s a report on research done in the United Kingdom. Published in 2017, it was a study by the University of Essex aimed at establishing The Wildlife Trusts’* contribution to human wellbeing — personal and mental. As is the case with most research, the study was conducted scientifically and established methods to be used to continue to gather additional information in the future.
Although this initial study included only 139 people, the researchers found significant improvement in wellbeing during the 12 week period, with the greatest improvement being from people who had not previously had contact with Wildlife Trust activities.
“Half of the people who started with low mental wellbeing improved after 12 weeks, and two-thirds noticed improvement within six weeks. Across all volunteers, there was a ‘statistically significant improvement of 8 percent in wellbeing scores.’ Participants reported ‘enhanced level of positivity, health, nature relatedness, activity, and increased contact with green space.’ They especially enjoyed participating in conservation activities and learning new skills, which is a well-known way to improve wellbeing.” (Treehugger)
This study concluded that getting out and doing things in nature makes people feel better. I agree with Treehugger when it says this study should be a useful for “policy-makers, medical professionals, and educators to understand how truly powerful nature can be.” And how important nature’s role is in human life. Hopefully this study and future studies such as this will help shape decisions about conservation and the preservation of green space.
I don’t know if knowing the conclusion of this study helps me explain a sense of place or the feeling I get from being in nature any better, but at least I know I’m “on the right track.”
Click here to read the complete study The health and wellbeing impacts of volunteering with The Wildlife Trusts.
*There are 46 Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK, the Isle of Man and Alderney. Each Wildlife Trust is an independent charity set up to help look after wildlife and wild places and help people get closer to nature. (WildlifeTrusts.org)