Nature Based Solutions for Mental Health

IUCN World Conservation Congress  –   The paradox that many of us working on environmental issues know too well is that for all our talk about Nature, we spend very little time in it. Most of our time is spent behind blue screens rather than under blue skies or on blue seas.

At an experiential level I have always known that the human-Nature divide is a false one. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and DNA hardwiring has ensured that no matter how low I am feeling, an outdoor hike or a swim will make me feel better.

image1So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a 2-hour workshop at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress titled Nature Based Solutions for Mental Health and knew that I had to attend it.

The session was run by a wonderful community mental health therapist, Andrea Razook. She took us through real world applications of mental health theory, biofeedback tracking and the value of natural green spaces to provide local and sustainable solutions for how we understand and treat mental illness.

We got to try some really cool prototype apps she had been working on that could be used on smart phones to facilitate Nature-based mindfulness practices. These apps are quite similar to the Mind Space app of which I am a big fan; I’m quite excited by their potential to provide mental health support to low-income communities while affirming our connection with Nature. I left the session feeling as though I had just taken a nice walk in a green forest, even though I was in a conference hall.