Being in nature is good for the soul, how many times have you heard that? Or perhaps taken that deep breath when out in nature and felt less stressed, or your body feels better for the activity carried out outside?

Using nature for health and wellbeing has been part of the conversation for a long time, we have understood the impact of being in nature on our health, wellbeing and recovery. More recently the need to really understand how this looks in a formal way has resulted in more research being carried out, and it is hoped that there will be more and more research in the future into the impact these interventions can have on our lives.

Even though more research is needed, perhaps it is the language that is used that can be the cause of some of the issues faced. We are often able to discuss at great lengths the wonderful impact any engagement with nature can have, but to understand fully the different applications we get lost in terms and definition. This is important, and something that those in the sector are working hard to overcome.

Within the sector and there are a couple of useful models, two current models have been developed:

(i) to describe how an individual can engage with nature to improve their health and wellbeing, [1] and

(ii) to assist commissioners in understanding how different activities can best be targeted to deliver different outcomes.  [2]

 

All of the various activities that make up nature-based activities and interventions exist on a spectrum which is part of the power of nature-based activities.  The models can be used in relation to the different approaches to using nature, and we certainly shouldn’t see them as limited to the examples given within the models.

 

Through the two models mentioned above there are three key sections to both models, engaging in everyday life, through health promotion, and finally through green care.

Everyday life is how anyone can engage with nature, either through exercise, activities in nature, or through their own gardening and growing.

It can sometimes be harder to make a clear distinction between green care and health promotion activities as they sit on a spectrum rather than being discrete entities.  The main difference, however, is in the targeting of the activity to an individual’s needs or goals and the involvement of a trained practitioner.

 

A health promotion activity will, generally speaking, be centred around a task or activity with which an individual will be encouraged to participate and from which they can derive health and wellbeing benefits.  A green care activity will be adapted and targeted to ensure the individual derives a specific health or wellbeing benefit.

 

We are at an important moment in the development of green care, and of using nature for health and wellbeing, more and more people are understanding how giving someone the opportunity to get outside, whatever the activity, can likely lead to a positive impact.

Thrive want to ensure that nature and gardens are used appropriately across society for the good to health and wellbeing they provide. Through our understanding what services are being offered? who is benefitting? how is this funded?  We can use this information to inform important stakeholder around the use of nature-based interventions within social prescribing and across health, social care and education.

 

The key to understanding the different applications of using nature for health and wellbeing will be crucial for those that are currently developing the work within social prescription, it is paramount that a clear distinction between what each application can offer, and what each person needs are understood, and the funding is made available for this to happen.  Here at Thrive, and in other nature-based organisations, we are excited for what Social Prescribing can offer, and hope to be fully involved in the dialogue to get it working in the right way for the individuals who will benefit from it the most.

 

If you would like more information about the context in which an individual may engage with nature, why not consider signing up for our new ‘What is Green Care?’ course, a free introductory course that is set to go live in November. This course covers the two models in more detail, and the applications of using nature for health and wellbeing, as well as goes into more details about the differences between health promotion and green care.

 

Visit www.thrivelearn.org.uk for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Figure 1: The different context in which an individual may engage with nature
[source: Bragg, R., Atkins, G. 2016.  A Review of the nature-based interventions for mental health care.  Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number 2014]

[2] Figure 2: Engagement with nature by different populations- Thrive & CFUK


Sean

Sean

Dr Sean Morrissey has delivered training, education and consultancy as a member of Thrive's teaching and learning team since 2014. His particular areas of interest include nature-based interventions in dementia care, and evidence, outcomes and commissioning in Green Care more generally.

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