Harnessing the healing power of nature

In today’s fast-paced and digitally-driven world, our connection to nature often takes a backseat to the demands of modern life. However, as research increasingly demonstrates, spending time outdoors can have profound benefits for both our physical and mental wellbeing. In what’s known as ‘Social Prescribing’, healthcare professionals are increasingly referring patients to non-medical initiatives and resources in their communities, rather than relying solely on medication or traditional interventions. Harnessing the healing power of nature, ‘green social prescribing’ recognises the importance of addressing the broader social, environmental, and lifestyle factors that influence our health. Recent analysis has even found that nature prescribing programmes could save the NHS £100 million per 1.2 million people involved.

A human need

At our core, humans have a biological connection to nature. ‘Biophilia’ (which translates to “love of life”) is our innate, biologically-driven need to seek connections with nature and other living things. Yet, in the modern world we live in, technological advancements have led to a growing disconnect from the natural world. This disconnect has been linked to a range of health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic illnesses such as heart disease and obesity.

The benefits of spending time in nature are far-reaching and well-documented, from reducing stress levels and boosting mood to improving immune function and lowering blood pressure. In addition to this, engaging in outdoor activities can foster a sense of connection, purpose, and belonging, essential components of our overall wellbeing.

A win-win for health and community

Volunteering in the outdoors offers a unique opportunity to combine the benefits of being in nature with the rewards of giving back to the community. Whether it’s taking part in wildlife conservation projects, maintaining local green spaces, or tending to community gardens, outdoor volunteering allows people to engage with nature while making a tangible difference to their local environment.

For those participating in social prescribing programmes, outdoor volunteering provides a structured and meaningful activity that promotes physical activity, social interaction, and a sense of accomplishment. Working alongside others in a natural setting can help alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness, while also fostering a sense of belonging and community cohesion.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put together.” John Burroughs

nature to

Volunteering at Earth Trust

Volunteers are an invaluable part of the Earth Trust community of changemakers, and we have more than 200 people who volunteer with us on a regular basis. Everyone has their own personal motivation or reason to join us, but the myriad of benefits are felt by all.

Our land management volunteering programme offers opportunities to take part in a range of meaningful, purpose-driven activities, from hedgelaying and tree planting, to coppicing and fencing, at community reserves in Didcot, Abingdon and Wallingford. While our gardening and maintenance volunteers help to keep the surroundings at Earth Trust Centre, near Little Wittenham, looking beautiful and welcoming, all year round.

We also have a team of foresters, biodiversity monitoring volunteers and community wardens who each play a role in helping us nurture the nature-rich green spaces we care for.  Find out more at earthtrust.org.uk/volunteering

“Here, the community spirit flows like the river itself, and we, the volunteers, are the pebbles, shaping its course and reflecting the sun’s warmth.” Martin Barrett, Earth Trust Volunteer at Wallingford Riverside Meadows

Hedgelayers Bill Martin and Mike

Nature has the power to restore

From improving mental health and physical fitness, to fostering community connections and environmental stewardship, volunteering in natural settings offers a wealth of benefits for individuals, communities, and the planet. By harnessing the healing power of nature and fostering meaningful connections through community engagement, green social prescribing initiatives might just have the potential to transform lives and build healthier, more resilient communities.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of modern life, let’s not forget the simple yet profound benefits of spending time in nature and giving back to our communities.

Treat yourself to a digital detox!

We can all benefit from a disconnect from screens, and reconnect with the natural world. Simply spending time outdoors releases chemicals in the brain that make us feel stimulated, refreshed and de-stressed – even better if you can share this experience with friends and family!

All of Earth Trust’s green spaces are free to access and open 24 hours a day. From sheltered woodlands to tranquil meadows, there’s always a welcoming space for everyone. Visit our green spaces.

UK wildflower meadow at wallingford oxfordshire