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Can spending time outside make you happier? I tried #30DaysWild

Connecting with nature on a daily basis is proven to help us to feel healthier and happier, so we decided to a give The Wildlife Trust’s #30dayswild campaign a go to see how we felt after one month in the great outdoors.

Improved self-esteem, mood and a better connection to the world around you - these are just a few benefits that come with spending more time outdoors. So you may be shocked to learn that the average person in the UK spends a rather miserable 92% of all their time indoors.

The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild campaign is a helping to change that. For one month, you’re asked to connect with nature each day. These random acts of wildness can be anything from identifying a species of insect you’ve never seen before, building a bug hotel, or simply taking your lunch break in green space.

Anyone can get involved with the challenge, whether you live in the city, the country or somewhere in between, the campaign is asking us all to look just a little harder at the patches of nature around us, no matter how big or small.

So, I decided to rise to the challenge and rewild my life a little to see if the claims were true. For one month I agreed to connect with wildlife every day, documenting my thoughts and feelings along the way.

I was somewhat sceptical at first. As someone who spends a fair amount of time outdoors already, I questioned whether or not the 30 Days Wild challenge would really make much difference to my lifestyle. It turned out that it made quite a notable difference from day one.

My personal experience of nature has always been a positive one. Growing up in Dorset meant many happy, hazey childhood days spent falling out of trees and camping in the countryside - bruised, muddy knees were a favourite Tomboy accessory. As I’ve got older those same wild spaces have remained incredibly important. They’re somewhere where i can fully achieve headspace when things are busy or challenging and a place where I can feel completely at home no matter where I am in the world.

I began by speaking with Lucy McRobert, The Wildlife Trust’s communication manager and a keen nature lover, to find out why 30 Days Wild is so linked to wellbeing.

“If we start connecting more with nature not only is it great for wildlife because we’re caring more, but it’s also great for people because it helps us to feel more connected to the world around us.” Lucy told me.

“A lot of us are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature and it’s very bad for both our psychological and physical health. Nature is a fantastic resource for feeling healthy and it’s linked to people’s appreciation of beauty. If you notice beauty around you you’re more likely to feel happy and healthy” she continued.

Lucy was eager to explain that this beauty could also be found in more urban areas too, but that we may just need to look harder to find it: “We have loads of people in urban areas taking part and they’re noticing wildlife in places like the centre of London, Glasgow and Manchester, which is really exciting. We want to help people in cities who aren’t getting those wild experiences.”

I spent day one giving our house plant collection some long-needed tlc. Some of them had needed repotting for a while, so I brought them all outside for a sunbathe and pruned, hosed and fed the little dudes until they looked significantly happier. Okay, so I hadn’t climbed mountains or swum with any sharks, but I did feel more positive already.

The campaign is held throughout June when British weather is (usually) balmy and gardens are springing to life. A heatwave and some unusually hot summer days meant I was looking for any excuse to step outside, but making a conscious effort to engage with nature was a therapeutic addition to each day. If you missed this June don’t worry, #30dayswild is used throughout the year, meaning you can take up this challenge at any time.

A couple of mornings I sat and did a 30 minute garden watch while drinking my coffee, writing down each little thing that I noticed. If I saw a species of insect or bird that I didn’t recognise I would make an effort to identify it, something which I realised I don’t always make the time to do. If you’re new to this kind of thing the 30 Days Wild community provide plenty of support, something I discovered when trying to identify a Scarlet Tiger Moth while camping.

I began to see how 30 Days Wild could not only improve people’s wellbeing but also help them to care a little more for nature. Surveys taken after the challenge showed significant changes in people’s pro-nature behaviour, while it’s been found that identifying a species or volunteering for a wildlife charity can not only enhance our appreciation of what’s around us, but also lead to improved attitudes and mental wellbeing.

I live neither in the countryside or the city - more of a suburban limbo where I can access both quite easily. The coast is a half hour cycle from my house and I’m lucky in that I have a garden, so spend a lot of weekends outside, but it was the times in between which made the most difference. I made an extra effort to eat my lunches outside and not at my desk and felt far more switched on for doing so.

Studies have shown that simply stepping outside for our lunch breaks can boost productivity, lowering our heart rate and the hormones which make us feel stressed. Above all, sitting outside while I munched on a falafel wrap gave me some clarity and chance to stop thinking about work, not to mention that the food tasted all the better for it.

Over the course of 30 Days Wild my random acts of wildness varied from bigger things like building a bug hotel, to simply choosing the longer, scenic cycle to work. Once the month was up I realised just how much more positive I felt. I felt more connected with nature, just as Lucy had said I would and more mindful of my surroundings. I had never fallen out of love with nature but I certainly had a bigger appreciation of all the little wild things around me.

My verdict? 30 Days Wild is incredibly easy to do - you don’t even need a pair of khaki cargo trousers, just a willingness to connect a little more with the natural world. Because as Lucy says: “All our lives are better if they’re a bit wild.”

To start your 30 Days Wild adventure, why not sign up and begin making some random acts of wildness.

Bug hotel
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1 Comment

about 1 year ago

Such a sweet article- inspired me to do some getting wild myself, I never noticed how much I crave the outdoors until I pushed myself to get in touch with nature more.