Space in nature

Supporting well-being through nature-based activities

With increasing evidence pointing to the restorative powers of nature in enhancing well-being, Rowcroft has been running a series of nature-based workshops. Participants have been enjoying the fresh air and green spaces of the hospice’s leafy gardens and getting stuck into activities such as beekeeping, gardening, music therapy, art therapy and pottery, as Rowcroft’s Clinical Nurse Specialist Sarah Baker explains here.

The health benefits of nature

“The overall aim of the ‘Space in nature’ project is to enable Rowcroft’s patients, relatives and carers to access and benefit from nature, with the workshops promoting physical, mental and emotional well-being and a better quality of life,” says Sarah. “There is increasing evidence of the health benefits of being in touch with nature, and research shows that contact with nature reduces stress and anxiety. The connection with the natural environment has been found to lift mood, boost mindfulness and increase resilience. In addition, gardening and therapeutic horticulture can have physical benefits such as strengthening muscles and improving sleep and mobility.”

Bereavement support in nature

“People who are bereaved often experience loss and grief that can result in social isolation, in addition to emotional and mental health problems. Our project offers a safe and green space for people to get together, with the aim of enabling social interaction, reducing isolation and promoting therapeutic conversations. The current group members have all experienced a recent bereavement, and the nature-based project is helping them to connect with each other, share their experiences and feelings, and empathise with and support each other through listening and talking.”

Activities in nature

“Each week we’ve been taking part in different activities. The music therapy session was wonderful, with members of the group spontaneously experimenting with instruments and the whole group finishing by playing together. Last week’s tea ceremony was something very new to everyone but they all joined in with their usual enthusiasm and found it a meditative and calming experience. In the ‘creativity in nature’ session, I was struck by the imaginative poems the group wrote and by their level of engagement. The mindfulness morning included a mindful walk in the orchard which prompted people to share and explore their feelings about bereavement. Overall, I have felt quite moved by the contributions and engagement of the group.”

Early feedback

“The feedback for the project has been really positive. Group members have commented on how enjoyable the sessions have been, and how the sessions are giving them the opportunity to think about things differently, they have all engaged with enthusiasm.

“One group member sent me a message after the nature-based tea ceremony last week. She said: ‘Everything you’ve organised for our sessions has been amazing and has made such a positive impact on my quality of life.’”

The bird hide

“Our newly completed bird hide building acts as the ideal base for our nature sessions. It enables people to be in a relaxed and natural environment but with shelter and the comfort of seating, so people who are unwell or have physical restrictions can also take part. We have a number of bird feeders dotted around the hide to encourage birds to come closer so they’re easier to spot.

“The bird hide also provides a space that the wider Rowcroft team can use. For example,  clinicians can book it to meet with their patients/families and I hope that being in a natural, less clinical space will be of benefit when having difficult conversations, for example about end-of-life wishes or advanced care plans. For anyone who is nervous about visiting the hospice, it offers a relaxed place to meet patients and their loved ones.”

With thanks to the Queen’s Nursing Institute

“The project is funded for one financial year through a community innovation grant from the Queen’s Nursing Institute. We’re so grateful to them for their incredible support, and we hope to be able to demonstrate the success of the project to gain further support for activities of this kind in the future.”

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