The boost to health and wellbeing from a period of daily contact with nature can last for months, a review suggests.
An assessment of The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild project, which encourages people to take part in daily nature activities each day in June, found that the positive effects of the month-long challenge were still in evidence two months later.
The University of Derby evaluated survey responses from more than 1,000 people who took part in 30 Days Wild over five years.
People were asked to rate their health, how connected with nature they felt, happiness and pro-nature behaviour before beginning the challenge, again at the beginning of July when it had finished, and a third time in September.
Positive increases were seen both immediately after the challenge and also two months later, the survey shows.
Those who began with a weak connection with nature saw very significant increases in how connected they felt, while taking part in 30 Days Wild made people feel healthier, happier and increased their pro-nature behaviour, the survey suggests.
Overall, those participants with the lowest connection to nature before doing the 30 Days Wild challenge gained the greatest benefits by taking part.
This year’s challenge is going ahead online despite lockdown, with adults and children able to download free materials with ideas, wall charts and activities sheets for going wild in nature in June, even if it is just on the doorstep.
Professor Miles Richardson, at the University of Derby, said the evaluation “shows the positive power of simple engagement with nature”.
“We were thrilled to see that the significant increases in people’s health and happiness were still felt even two months after the 30 Days Wild challenge was over,” he said.
“The Wildlife Trusts have shown the importance of doing simple things to enjoy everyday nature and that it can bring considerable benefits.
“What really stood out was how the people who didn’t feel a connection with nature at the outset were the ones who benefited most from taking part in 30 Days Wild.”
Dom Higgins, head of health and education at The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Connecting with nature every day, in an easy way, is a must-have for our own wellbeing.
“That’s why The Wildlife Trusts are campaigning for better, wilder places near to where we all live and work so that everyone, everywhere, can enjoy nature on the doorstep.”
He added: “Our lives have been changed by coronavirus and this is giving people a reason to reflect on our relationship with nature, the way we live our lives and how we spend our free time.
“Precious moments outside on a daily walk help us to relax and feel happier.
“Even watching wildlife from a window, or on a webcam, connects us to that sense of being a part of nature, not apart from it.”