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Muddy Faces

Introduction

Coralie Hopwood has been active in the field of health and wellbeing in the outdoors for over ten years. Here she shares some thoughts on the huge potential of the outdoor environment to support the health and wellbeing of participants.

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Coralie Hopwood

Coralie has worked in Care Farming, community mental health, community growing projects, Forest Schools, public health and development, and training delivery to outdoor practitioners.

Coralie is currently the England Inclusion Manager for the John Muir Award, the main engagement initiative of the John Muir Trust.

The outdoors as a therapeutic environment

The world outside our built environment is rich in many ways, but the principle one for me is the sense of freedom it gives us. Our daily lives now are incredibly busy, not just with functional tasks that need completing, but with the incessant pressures of online communication, social media, news coming through to us from every possible media source and the general feeling that we should be doing more than we are and that we are probably not good enough! These constant sources of anxiety impact on people of all backgrounds, ages and circumstances and in different ways, and are increasingly hard to switch off from.

That is until we go outside.

Being in the natural world immediately fills our heads with a myriad of other sensory distractions and, if we engage with them, gives us a way to quiet those worrying thoughts and feelings and connect with the now, to discover ourselves and our surroundings in the moment.

It doesn’t really matter where we go, whether it’s a remote mountain top or the corner of a local park, in places where we can connect to the natural world we can reconnect with ourselves, slow down, take time to stop, breath and clear the muddle. Whether it’s a moment of mindfulness at lunchtime or a weekly course of bushcraft skills to build confidence and resilience, the variety of ways in which we can benefit from time spent in natural environments is enormous.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing

Public Health England promotes five key actions that everybody can undertake to make small but noticeable improvements in their own wellbeing. The outdoors is the perfect place to have a go at bringing these actions into our everyday lives and to steady ourselves against the pressures of a busy, bustling world.

Give

Are you planning a conservation activity? So you’re giving to the environment and maybe a local community. Are you offering your time to support a group? Are you working with others and helping people to learn something new? The feeling of making a contribution and giving to others has a huge impact on our self-esteem and feelings of belonging.

Connect

Connect to a natural environment by spending time there, becoming familiar with the wildlife, taking part in practical tasks. Connect with others by seeing each other in a new place, talking and walking, removing the walls and restrictions that come from being indoors. Have freer conversations and make new friendships, or just take existing ones outside for a new perspective on things.

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Take Notice

How often do we just stop & take the time to look, listen, smell, feel the breeze around us, enjoy the warmth of the sun, enjoy the power & life-giving force of the rain?

Being outside gives us the permission we need to ignore our screens & re-engage with the living things all around us.

Be Active

There are very few outdoor activities that don’t also involve physical activity. Whether that’s getting to a place, taking part in physical tasks, practical conservation work, taking part in sports and games or even creating dance and theatre pieces on outdoor stages. There is a natural environment for all physical abilities and the urge to explore can give us the motivation to move a little more than we might otherwise do.

Learn

Where to start! The outdoors is a classroom all of its own and the possibilities for learning are endless. Find out more about the fauna and flora around you or investigate the social heritage of your place and discover ancient landmarks or spots of historical significance. Or simply learn from one another, share stories, share skills, learn a craft, learn about yourself in a space which gives you the freedom to do so.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
John Muir, naturalist and pioneer of modern day conservation

Evidence for the benefits of nature on health & welbeing:

Research, reports: health, wellbeing

Evidence for the benefits to children of outdoor play and learning & spending time in nature.

Arranged in chronological order, most recent at the top

Read More about Research, reports: health, wellbeing

Health & wellbeing news

Articles, blogs & news items, from the UK & internationally, featuring evidence & expert opinion on the health and wellbeing benefits of being outdoors.

Arranged in chronological order, most recent at the top

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