Highlanders Explore Link Between Nature and Mental Wellbeing

Pictured: Pupils at Cradlehall Primary School show off their completed postcards, back (l-r) Susanna, Alicia, Kasey, Amelia, front (l-r): Katie, Abbey, Naimh, Alexia.

A creative project to encourage Highland residents to consider how their relationship with nature can positively impact their mental health has been hailed a success by organisers.

Think Health Think Nature organised the ‘Pop It On A Postcard’ campaign for Green Health Week, which saw Highlanders encouraged to write down thoughts, opinions, poems and stories about the links between the environment and mental wellbeing.

Thousands of postcards were distributed to almost 50 community locations across the Highlands, as well as to schools and other organisations.

A selection of the completed postcards is now being exhibited at the Inverness Botanic Gardens, with even more submissions on display digitally here.

Ailsa Villegas, Senior Development Officer for Green Health at NHS Highland, said:

“The response to our creative writing project has been absolutely fantastic, and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to grab a postcard and jot down their thoughts.

“The last year has been difficult in so many ways, but reading through the responses shows that we are not alone, and that many others share the same feelings.

“It has been incredibly inspiring to learn about all the ways in which people connect with nature across the Highlands, and how that connection makes a positive impact on their lives.

“Anyone looking for inspiration on how to get out and enjoy the great outdoors in the Highlands can visit www.thinkhealththinknature.scot to find a collection of resources designed to help people connect with the natural world.”

More than 250 people have already submitted postcards from across the Highlands, with more arriving every day, and these have been collated alongside entries from seventeen schools.

The public, pupils and students were encouraged to think about the ways in which they interact with nature and reflect on their own wellbeing during the project, which coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week.

Lawrence Sutherland, head teacher of Cradlehall Primary School, said that the project provided a great opportunity for pupils.

He said:

“As a school, we were very pleased for our senior pupils to be involved in Green Health Week.

“All through this current pandemic, staff have been setting work which encouraged the children to engage in learning activities based on the natural environment.

 “This particular activity allowed those involved to reflect meaningfully on the positive impact that this outdoor focus has had on their overall mental health and wellbeing.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the project can visit Inverness Botanical Gardens, where a selection of submitted postcards are now on display until Wednesday, June 2.

Facilities manager Ewan Mackintosh commented:

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Think Health Think Nature on the ‘Pop It On A Postcard’ project.

“We spend every day at the Botanic Gardens surrounded by nature, and we know the positive impact it can have on mental wellbeing.

“I am looking forward to hearing what visitors to the gardens have to say about the exhibition, and I’m sure it will spark lots of interesting discussions.”

Think Health Think Nature is part of a programme being delivered by the Highland Green Health Partnership which is aiming to encourage more of us to make use of our local green and blue spaces as part of Our Natural Health Service.

There is now firm evidence to support that regular participation in some form of outdoor activity brings improved health and well-being benefits by reducing social isolation and stress, improving physical inactivity and promoting improved mental well-being. 

The partnership is supported nationally by NatureScot, Forest and Land Scotland, NHS Health Scotland and Transport Scotland. Local partners include NHS Highland, High Life Highland, The Cairngorms National Park Authority, The Highland Council, Paths for All, Highland Third Sector Interface and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

For more information, visit www.thinkhealththinknature.scot or follow Think Health Think.