PARK LIFE – NATURALLY BIRMINGHAM’S WELLBEING REMEDY

Witton Lodge Community Association on Healthy Parks

Empowering. Invigorating. Stimulating.Powerful words, powerful emotions. And the fact is, it costs nothing to be empowered, to feel invigorated or stimulated. Just step outside.

Whether it’s time spent smelling flowers in your garden, taking a walk around your local park or just sitting among nature and wildlife, studies prove that green and open spaces is an assured way to feel better.

Research has connected parks that feature water, open spaces with significant biodiversity and broadleaf woods to be good for your health. The aesthetic beauty of nature can improve mental and emotional wellbeing.

This year has continued to be challenging for all of us. The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has caused stresses and pressures many were not prepared for. Health and wellbeing provision delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association together with Naturally Birmingham (Future Parks Accelerator – FPA) has sought to counter such distresses through a programme of activities:

Online support sessions have focused on the importance and benefits of connecting with nature while supported walks around local parks have helped older and vulnerable adults to escape their lockdown isolation and benefit from a stirring of the senses.

In addition, the Association’s affiliated walking group, the Red Hot Chilli Steppers, has grown to 20 members strong who enjoy weekly strolls around stunning Witton Lakes – a 1.8-kilometre trail which snakes around two gorgeous reservoirs and through the expansive green canvas that is Brookvale Park.

WLCA volunteer Linda Hackett, who founded the Steppers’ nearly 20 years ago, took part in a sensory walk around The Lakes, organised by colleagues from The Active Wellbeing Society to showcase and highlight how people can gain from spending time in the company of nature.

The tour emphasised the functionality of parks in making people feel happy. Open and green communal spaces are social amphitheatres, where people can meet and connect. This type of social contact and interaction builds friendships and networks and creates a real sense of wellbeing.

The secret to using nature as a mood booster is to find activities in a green space that match the outcome you are looking for. For some, going to a quiet park to escape their daily routine will bring peace of mind and a sense of freedom. Others may use their natural landscapes to challenge themselves with activities like running or cycling. Some are intoxicated by simply interacting with animals.

However you use your green spaces, studies have found that time spent outdoors can protect against mood disorders, depression, neurotic behaviour and stress-related issues, underlining the positive psychological and biological impact that parks offer. The effect is also dose-dependent, people who spend more time in their parks and are more frequent visitors to their open green spaces enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing.

This is why the Health and Wellbeing team at Witton Lodge are great advocates of social prescribing. Engaging with your natural landscape, connecting with the open and green spaces in your community, is medicinal.

Don’t underestimate the healing harmonies of nature.

If you’d like to hear more about the Future Parks Accelerator programme please contact Debbie Needle on futureparks@bosf.org.uk or the work of Witton Lodge Community Association please contact Steve Sharma on Steve.Sharma@wittonlodge.org.uk

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