In June 2021, the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare launched our programme of ‘NatureWell’ sessions for hospital staff in Bristol and London. These sessions, run in partnership with Natural Academy, aim to teach healthcare professionals how to use nature to boost their wellbeing. Three intensive, three-hour sessions enable them to experience the healing power of nature and to gain inspirational techniques they can use on a regular basis.
The first of the weekly sessions has a theme of Contact and Beauty and is designed to encourage staff to engage with the beauty of nature using all their senses, via short meditations, grounding exercises and a craft project.
Contact and Beauty
The six participants are invited to sit in a circle of chairs in the wildlife area, hidden amongst the trees and long grass. There, connected with the green space, they have a grounding meditative session, using all their senses to tune in with their natural surroundings.
This is followed by an exploration of their ‘natural selves’ and how personal, social and ecological elements all interlink with each other.
The participants then then find their own space under a tree, a place to which they will return in the following sessions. In this ‘sit spot’ they practice grounding, with time to be still and observe nature deeply.
The course made me realise that being supported by nature as a non-judging, safe space is so relaxing, you can blend in and just be.
The second element, Beauty, is introduced after a short break, with a discussion about how the participants engage with beauty, and what parts of the natural world they find particularly captivating.
They then go on a wander, including back to their own sit spots, to gather things they see as beautiful, observing what catches their attention the most, whether that is flowers, leaves or pinecones. They transform these items into ‘beauty weaves’ using Y-shaped sticks as mini looms to create their own unique nature tapestries./
At the end of the session, participants gather to discuss what they felt, sensed and noticed, and how they are feeling after the activities. They share their looms with each other and finish off with a short group meditation.
Taking part in NatureWell has really shifted my perspective of the role nature plays in restoring and uplifting my wellbeing and has enlightened me of the tools and knowledge to build resilience against stress and to overcome hurdles; most importantly reminding me of the wider picture and system of which we are a part.
The two remaining sessions of the course cover the themes of Emotion and Compassion, and Meaning and Integration.
The course is being rolled out in July and August 2021 at hospitals in Sussex, Kent and Liverpool.
Background: In 2019, CSH carried out research at three hospital sites, during which more than 80% of surveyed staff said would like to spend more time in green space at work. A growing evidence base points to the significant impacts of connecting to nature in reducing stress, anxiety and depression, which has become more important than ever in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. CSH initiated this project to give staff concrete ways to use nature to boost their wellbeing and will be offering training to health practitioners in how to facilitate Wellbeing in Nature sessions later in the year.
The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s Green Space for Health Programme is funded by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund was developed by Defra and its Arm’s-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.