Hello, I’m Susan Collini and my role is to encourage the setting up of Wellbeing With Nature groups within the U3A movement.
In relation to this topic I have been involved in running Wellbeing With Nature activities for over 6 years, mostly within a woodland setting. I’m a practitioner for Forest School, Social Forestry and Mindfulness in a woodland setting.
I believe passionately that connection with nature can deliver much in the way of wellbeing benefits. I hope I can help inspire you to feel the same way and will choose to take up the baton and set up your own group.
Wellbeing with Nature
There is now a large body of evidence showing that nature connection is restorative, benefitting wellbeing in a number of ways including reducing stress and anxiety levels, lowering blood pressure, soothing mental distress, improving energy levels, increasing resilience, speeding recovery from illness and even boosting the immune system.
Spending just 2 hours a week connecting with nature can deliver wellbeing benefits. The role of the group leader should be one of encouraging people to slow down to be able to ‘notice’, facilitating connection with nature through practical, creative and reflective activities.
Wellbeing With Nature location(s) will obviously be down to the outdoor environments available in different U3A localities. However, whether coastal, woodland, park or urban gardens there will be possibilities for running a group to benefit wellbeing through nature connection.
Based on 5 ways to wellbeing, a Wellbeing With Nature group should try to bear in the mind the need for encouraging group members to:
- Get physical – encourage mild to moderate exercise
- Get Social – encourage social interaction
- Care for the Environment – build knowledge and experience of caring for nature
- Notice – encouraging connection with nature can promote relaxation of mind and body
- Give – contribute to own wellbeing through ‘giving’ to something bigger than oneself
Starting a Wellbeing with Nature Group
- There are a number of approaches you could use to run a group, but your starting point is most likely to relate to the type of nature location, available resources and the experience/interest of the group leader.
- Identify where the meetings will take place, which needs to be an outdoor location(s). You’ll need to obtain necessary permissions from land owners, if appropriate, finding out what and what is and is not permissible in relation to activities. For example, pruning or even picking of plants may be acceptable in one location but not another.
- Check with your U3A Committee that they agree to the starting of a new group. You may find they have a list of people who might be interested in joining.
- Try to limit the group size to 10 or less.
Hearing from groups about their experiences of what’s gone well will be helpful to then share with other groups in a newsletter.
Please read the accompanying PDF for further guidance and feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’m happy to offer help and advice to those wanting to start a Wellbeing With Nature group.