Jane Acton describes the benefit to health of being in nature

Our guest blogger for February is Jane Action, an ethnobotanist and director of Nature Workshops talking about the benefits to health of nature.

janeacton“In 2013 the NHS bill for antidepressants topped £50 million – we need ‘nature’ on the drop down screen options GPs can choose from.

It might be being where air is being made, using our bodies the way they evolved to be used, sitting round a fire eating, making a den we can come back to, using tools and seeing for ourselves how the world works but what we know is that spending immersive time in natural spaces improves self esteem and feelings of optimism for the future.

The transformation and sustainability agenda might be used to change the role between patients and practitioners via co-production and an asset-based approach. We need to acknowledge we must move from ‘we know best’ to a ‘single whole system living well network alliance’. If we did this prescriptions for ‘nature’ would be easier for GPs to write.

Nature Workshops offers free training for people in work, with one attendee saying, “I lived for after work and the weekends and never thought I could find a job I enjoyed and away from a computer.”

NHS principles can, in my opinion, best be delivered by social enterprises and commissioners can have confidence in standards from agencies with the Social Enterprise Mark such as us.

Randomised control trials are planned, our published research, and others, have shown the benefits. Here is some context from Dr. Alan Kellas and the 10 steps to connecting with nature:

switch off : technology

connect : opening my senses, allowing a wide angle of vision, listen to all the sounds around

focus both big (the stars) and small (snail’s view).

centre: posture, balance gravity forward, back and side to side, giving attention to breath

wander: shifting attention from sensing to moving, treading tenderly as a ‘fox walk’….allowing oneself to get lost, letting go of direction

settle: finding sit spot, find your place, a magic spot to sit or stand or rest in

commune: exchange, listen, watch – as if in a conversation, or a dialogue

ceremony: marking the moment, make a symbolic act, place a stone, notice something has passed, something is beginning, allow deep creative imaginings – an image or phrase or feeling arise may come or emerge

welcome the darkness: not running away from fears, being still, there is discomfort…things do come to an end, even die….bring forth: there is a present in the present, a gift or offering, a realisation

give thanks: on returning, gratitude…it leaves no room for worry.”

To find out more about how being in nature could benefit you, call Jane on 01209 215211 or visit