A Daily Dose of Nature: A New Paradigm for Wellbeing

Last week I was at ‘Towards a Daily Dose of Nature’, part of the Nature & Wellbeing Summit in Bristol. One of the ideas presented on the day was comparing nature to a drug. This inspired me to produce a drug packet design for Nature, a useful exercise as it forced me to sum up the evidence of the health benefits. Looking at the benefits for health, and the numerous ‘side effects’ for wellbeing, I think it’d fly off the shelves. Of course, nature is out there, and it’s free – so why isn’t it part of our everyday healthcare?

Copyright Miles Richardson 2015

Copyright Miles Richardson 2015

Existing models of healthcare essentially view people as separate from the environment and affected by events. The biomedical model is basically about deviation from normal, and treating those deviations, often with drugs. However, the NHS is now spending £100 billion on cures and a very small proportion on wellness. We are wedded to the biomedical model, placing health in a medical context, prescribing drugs and often expecting to receive them as patients.

The biopsychosocial model of health described by Engel back in 1977 included psychological and social factors, but we now know a connection to nature is as important for wellbeing as established social factors. And there’s even more evidence that simple exposure to nature is good for our physical and mental health. So, health depends on biology, psychology and nature – biopsychophysis to continue the model terminology. This provides a new paradigm for wellbeing based on the unity of life, mind and nature.

‘Normalising nature’ was another theme in Bristol and such a new paradigm for health and wellbeing could underpin the epistemology of health, leading to changes in medical training and approaches to health and wellbeing in the long-term – making access to nature part of everything we do. Until then we must continue to highlight the link between nature and wellbeing, be it through national campaigns or comparing nature to drugs within a biomedical context.

 

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About Miles

Applied psychologist researching our connection with nature and ways to improve it. Good for nature, good for you.
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8 Responses to A Daily Dose of Nature: A New Paradigm for Wellbeing

  1. Great piece, Miles – and great image!

    Much of the work I do is around getting people not just to be in nature, but to notice it, because there’s little point in walking through a park each day if you do so while staring at your phone or listening to music that removes you from your surroundings; you may be ‘in nature’ but you’re getting very few of the benefits. To get people to notice nature and really connect with it so that it’s not just a backdrop takes, I believe, stories: you need to know the stories of the creatures and the processes going on around you. That’s how you find a ‘way in’. Doing so also makes even the humblest patch of green or row of street trees rich and beneficial to you, because you can find ‘stories’ almost anywhere – not just in big set-piece landscapes or nature reserves. And given that 82% of us now live in urban areas, connecting urbanites to nature is vital – not just for our own sakes but for nature’s, too.

  2. Miles King says:

    Great to meet you last week Miles and I enjoyed your graphic representation of some of the ideas explored at the conference.

    I think the question “why” nature is so vital to health and wellbeing is increasingly well supported by empirical evidence – some of the statistics we heard in Bristol are incredibly powerful and I am as bit surprised they aren’t more widely publicised. \

    The challenge now is the “how”; how to persuade clinical commissioning groups or NICE that they should be promoting nature instead of the biomedical “end of pipe” solutions. And actually, when it comes to things like Diabetes, Cardio-vascular disease or Cancer rates, and how these can be reduced at the population level, (through urban planning, for example) it’s not really something that NICE or the CCG’s have any influence on.

    It would be a mistake to think that ensuring people have “enough” nature in their daily lives, is something that could be left to the health sector to deliver. Their involvement is essential, but we have to be clear what their role is, and how it fits in with the changes needed to other elements of society.

  3. Miles King says:

    Reblogged this on a new nature blog and commented:
    Here’s an excellent post from another Miles, Dr Miles Richardson, ecopsychologist at the Unversity of Derby, on the links between nature, health and wellbeing.

  4. Miles says:

    Thank you both for the comments, great additions to the post.

    Melissa, I too like to think in stories, even, as you say, in the humblest patch of green.
    Perhaps we’ve been on a similar journey of discovery, finding wilderness in simple places close to home, as in A Blackbird’s Year I write ‘Observing the story of the day, ties one into it, to be part of the patterns of nature, rather than the pursuit of linear goals… Once divorced from the activities of the day, nature has time to tell its story…Allow the landscape to speak to you, for nature always has a story to tell. The sun can light a different chapter in one place, as can the rain, breeze and sky; time and orbit. Our steps are new lines and in one hundred paces, a hundred stories can be told. Each passing bird and leaf unfurled is a new word in nature’s story.’

    Gregory Bateson, in Mind and Nature, also writes of stories in all life and mind; stories as patterns through time. Stories of growth, evolution and life, and we forget that our lives, behaviour and actions are stories insignificant in the wonder of the whole. Stories that provide the context for what comes next, whether it be a tree reaching for light or a hawk chasing its prey.

    And Miles – yes, thank you for pointing out the whole, or the wider story! It’s an important point.

  5. play and other things says:

    Reblogged this on Play and Other Things.

  6. Pingback: My Musings On March 14 2015 | Patterns In Nature Blog

  7. Alex Rotas says:

    I love this post – everything about it! I love the graphic – sheer genius! – and I love what you say, I’ve shared on my Fb page Alex Rotas Photography btw. Not sure if you’re Bristol-based (I am) but would love to learn more about your project and perhaps have a conversation with you. I’m a photographer and I photograph people in later life (in their 70s, 80s and 90s) who are living life to the full. I’ve specialised in photographing masters athletes till now (competitive athletes in their 70s though 90s). But I’ve started a new project based around nature, wellness and longevity, largely because too many happy, vibrant people in their 90s have cited fresh air and spending time in nature as key to living joyful and contented lives. So your own project really resonates with me. I’m constantly looking for new subjects to photograph so older folk at one in nature – either in their gardens, their allotments, or stone-walling, or keeping bees, walking their dog, or, yes, fell running or other more sporty activities, or indeed whatever – would be fabulous for me to meet and to engage with. Your work is wonderful – and very important. If you know of anyone who might enjoy being photographed, it would be great to hear about them. Or alternatively do feel free to ask me if there’s any way you feel we might collaborate. Irrespective of any of this link to my stuff, thank you for a beautiful and enriching post and heartfelt good wishes for your lovely project.

  8. Pingback: Ten Thousand Steps in Nature | Finding Nature

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