TIME IN NATURE – ESSENTIAL THERAPY

The Covid-19 crisis piggy-backed onto the climate and ecological crisis, demanding changes to my daily life as a GP, activist, mother, and daughter of an ailing nonagenarian. There have been times when connection with nature and exercising in green space has been not just a nice addition to life, but an essential therapy to keep me mentally and physically strong. I know that many other healthcare workers have felt the same.

My 10 year old daughter and I have always connected through our love of the natural world. This bond has strengthened in the last three months as we’ve undertaken projects in our garden, a place we realise we are privileged to have. We have watched wildflowers thriving in the unmown area of the lawn. Our resident house sparrows, tits, goldfinches and greater spotted woodpeckers have all introduced their young to our bird feeders.

The pond we made during lockdown from our old sandpit already hosts snails, plants and insect life and is enriching our space. Vegetables are now being harvested, their growth enhanced by the attention they’ve had during lockdown. More remarkable has been seeing my partner (a paediatrician) evolve into a happy twitcher. A day does not go by without us having updates on the antics of our feathered visitors.

Each of these connections, if lived fully in the present moment, is like a mini meditation. Evidence shows that time and exercise spent in green spaces is so beneficial to our health. Longer meditation practice taken regularly causes positive, measurable changes to our brains. We have now bought a buddha statue for the garden which is a focus for our practice as well as keeping the birds company.

It has not just been our family that has benefited from connection with nature. I’ve heard stories from patients whose lives are enriched more than ever by their garden or green spaces in parks. Alongside more western management of physical and mental health problems, I now regularly ‘prescribe’ nature to people.

During lockdown, I helped set up the local Covid support group in our village, an offshoot of which was a ‘grow’ initiative using donations of containers, seeds, plants and compost. The group continues to be active, sharing photos of growing plants. For some, it is the first time growing from seed and has been a revelation.

As we ease lockdown, the road traffic noise outside our house has increased daily. We don’t hear the sparrows squabbling as clearly as we did three months ago. I hope we can all continue to find moments in our day to pause and notice the nature that is all around us, even it is a ‘weed’ in a pavement crack. These moments are good for us and good for the planet. With a love of nature and appreciation of its positive effects will come a desire to protect it. The health of our children and future generations depends on us recognising that we are part of nature, not masters of it.