“There were moments of feeling completely overwhelmed but my overriding memories are of the camaraderie.” Veterinary reflections on the pandemic
29 Jul 2021
03 Nov 2020 | Dom Higgins
Dom Higgins, head of health and education for The Wildlife Trusts, reveals why nature is so important for keeping vets healthy
Recognising the impact nature can have on our health and wellbeing is perhaps more important this year than ever before.
In the early stages of lockdown, we were hearing more and more stories of how much people missed nature, birdsong – and of course – each other. Social media was awash with it, and the Wildlife Trusts’ webcams experienced a 2000% increase in use.
Then, as restrictions were lifted, how many of us arranged to meet up in outdoor, wild and natural spaces? Of course, being outdoors has shown to be a better bet than being indoors when it comes to living with Covid-19, but there was something innate, in all of us, that had a desire to re-connect with nature as well as with each other.
We feel happier when we are in places filled with wildlife. There is abundant evidence that demonstrates the benefits to our physical and mental health of spending time in nature.
In 2015, the University of Essex drew together an increasing body of evidence and research to produce an independent literature review. They concluded that:
“Overall there is a large body of evidence to suggest that contact with a wide range of natural environments can provide multiple benefits for health and wellbeing.”
The results showed that even simply viewing nature and natural landscapes has a strong positive health effect, and that people who have regular contact with wilder, natural surroundings experienced:
Mind, the mental health charity, recognise how nature benefits mental health. Gavin Atkins, their head of communities, said: "Research by Mind and others has consistently shown getting out into nature is not only good for mental health but can also help address the social issues that come with having a mental health problem. It has been shown in some cases to be more effective – and cost less – than medication. Access to nature-based activities improves mental wellbeing, helps people to become more physically active, can give people the skills and confidence to get back into work or training and helps those who are lonely or socially isolated to connect with others.”
There is certainly more to learn about the definitive origins of Coronavirus, but the breakdown in our relationship with nature seems to be at the heart of it. Our personal connection with nature is declining; many people do not feel like part of the natural world or appreciate or value all it might offer. The result is a lack of empathy for the plight of wildlife and their precious habitats, and a lack of empathy leads to inaction.
Today though, we are facing two linked crises that demand urgent action: the climate emergency and the steady decline of nature. The climate crisis is driving nature’s decline; the loss of wildlife and habitats leaves us ill-equipped to reduce our emissions and adapt to change. Health harm from climate change is increasing and will affect people living in more deprived communities most, where there is also less nature; children in deprived areas are nine times less likely to have access to green space and places to play.
We must bring nature back into our daily lives. All of our lives; and this needs big ideas. That’s why the Wildlife Trusts are working to put nature into recovery across at least 30% of land and sea by 2030. We need everyone to be able to access nature from their doorsteps.
Could you create space for nature in your workplace? Perhaps an area where team members can relax, to further increase the positive mental impacts of taking a break from their busy schedules. Making use of every available space for nature will be important if we are to create a wilder future.
Make time for yourself and wildlife this One Health Day. I hope it’s a happy one for you.
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