BLOG: Wildlife Group
During these extraordinary times with Covid-19 our virtual Wildlife Group has helped to form an online community for our clients.
Research suggests that a thriving, wildlife-rich environment can benefit both your physical and mental health. Nature, through the role it plays in stimulating and encouraging physical activity, and through the direct impact it has on our emotional state, can help alleviate a range of psychological problems. Being outside in natural light can also be incredibly helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year. Those who make the most of the wildlife that is on their doorstep tend to be more active, mentally resilient and have better all-round health.
Here at Oakleaf, we aim to make our services, and particularly our virtual wellbeing activities, accessible to all. You don’t need to have access to large green spaces to experience your daily dose of nature; simply planting flowers, taking your dog for a walk, exercising outdoors or even tending to indoor plants can have a positive effect on your mental health.
So, we thought we would give you some insight into how our Wildlife group enables us to bring nature to our clients; and our clients closer to the natural world:
“It was one of the first groups that I developed when I started at Oakleaf last summer.
“I knew the positive impact getting outside for a walk during lockdown has had on my own mental health. Not everyone has a garden, so we always talk about what can be seen on walks, and what people might be able to see from their living room window. It’s important to see that nature still moves forward during a time when a lot of us feel stuck.”
Heather, Oakleaf Activity Leader
The session begins with everyone talking about what animals they think they might have spotted over the past week, which usually guides group discussions. The focus doesn’t necessarily have to be animal-based; clients are invited to share their experiences with nature, whatever they may be. For example, discovering a plant they haven’t seen before, spending a quiet afternoon watching dragonflies on a nearby river, or perhaps observing fruit appear on their garden trees. They are also encouraged to take a camera with them to document their finds, and share them with the group as a kind of ‘show and tell.’
One of our clients, Caz, suffers from anxiety and immersing herself in nature and wildlife has really helped her to feel happy and connected to this newfound community:
“We share stories, photos and experiences of animals, lovely outdoor spaces and sometimes horticultural projects that we have personally started/are continuing – one I have been keeping everyone posted on is my herb garden!
“I love wildlife, animals and nature. Before now, I hadn’t come across a support group where people shared my passion and were able to dedicate their time to discuss and share. I enjoy sharing, learning and seeing people smile – it helps me smile myself and really picks me up.”
Caz, Oakleaf Client
We spend so much time lost in our thoughts: our worries, ‘to do’ lists and plans for the future. Sometimes it’s difficult to live in the present, to appreciate the now and focus on just being.
Our group takes a lot of inspiration from The Wildlife Trust, which is rooted in local communities and neighbourhoods and therefore enables us to access things like local nature spots, information about local animals, and ways in which we can help our wildlife; from building a bug hotel to creating a garden pond.
We are lucky to have Marina, an Oakleaf client who has previously lectured in wildlife at a local college and is therefore considered our ‘fountain of knowledge’ in all thing’s wildlife.
“Guiding this group makes me feel useful. You are speaking to people in real-time, so it gives people something to think about aside from what’s going on in the world right now.”
Marina, Oakleaf Client
“I feel the group is important because it teaches us about the wildlife in our gardens and parks, and how best to protect it. Being out in the fresh air and in nature is very relaxing, and also being surrounded by like-minded people has been a great boost to my mental health.”
Jane, Oakleaf Client
If you would like to find out more about our Wildlife group, or would like to sign up, please contact Heather: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are able to donate to Oakleaf and help us provide much-needed support during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, we would be incredibly grateful—we now need you more than ever: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/donation-web/charity?charityId=1006744