Nature is an Essential Service

And the full benefits are delivered when we are connected. 

 A second pandemic is likely well on its way: the inflamed mental illness and psycho-social impacts as a result of COVID-19 stress, lockdowns and livelihood losses. This could silently sweep across all society with devastating consequences. 

Unless we act swiftly: people need to be outdoors experiencing nature and its wealth of health benefits.


In the wake of COVID-19, we expect a wave of psycho-social challenges due to the lockdown and abnormal conditions that most people are living under at the moment . 

Looking at the history of other extreme events, it is common to see widespread chronic mental illnesses (or psychological strain/unrest) following the acute medical phase.

Feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, social withdrawal, overwhelm, pressure on the chest and other symptoms are commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or sustained stress/fear/isolation events. If not managed early on, these can become chronic and deepen the trauma - for self and society.   

Emerging evidence suggests that between 10-20% of the population are likely to face some sort of psycho-social challenges within the coming six months. This percentage and timeline will inevitably rise the longer a lockdown continues and is influenced by the large variation in standards of living faced by citizens across the social spectrum. 

People do not experience the lockdown equally: it is much more difficult if people are unsafe, have little to no income, or if they live in overcrowded areas with little to no access to ‘green space’. The challenges to mental health are far greater when people face these risk factors on a daily basis. 

Elevated and continuous levels of stress and anxiety is unhealthy for anyone anywhere. 

Stress reduces the immune response in humans, heightens the risk of serious infections and can lead to a range of other diseases.  

Citizens need professional assistance to not only buffer these psycho-social shocks but to build resilience and support healthy recovery during this time and into the future. 

There are no vaccines preventing psychological and emotional disorders. There are not enough (affordable/accessible) health professionals for the number of people needing assistance.  

So what do we do?  


Nature's Health Services

Being in Nature reduces:

  • Stress Hormone Levels
  • Cortisol Levels
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Blood Pressure
  • Nervous System Arousal
  • Pain (during surgery recovery)
  • Fatigue
  • Isolation and Loneliness
  • Aggression
  • Crime (especially violent crime)

Being in Nature enhances:

  • Immune System Functioning
  • Cognitive Functioning
  • Healing Duration & Capability
  • Self-Esteem
  • Mood & Calmness
  • Attention & Mental Restoration
  • Pro-Social Tendencies
  • Community Cohesion
  • Pro-Nature Behaviours
  • Sense of Meaning & Worthwhile Life
  • Overall Happiness


Real wellbeing needs real connection: with nature and with people. 

Contact and connectedness with the natural world has been repeatedly shown to have positive impacts on health. If people feel safe, then time in nature brings a multitude of integrated wellbeing benefits.

Studies on nature and human health increasingly show that time with nature makes us healthier: it strengthens our immune system, reduces depression, lessens ADHD, elevates mood, lowers stress, improves overall psychological resilience and mental wellbeing, and positively influences life-expectancy. It helps us want to help nature too.

This is to be expected because humans evolved with nature. For over 95% of human history, we lived in small foraging communities that mostly thrived in their close relationships to the natural world. So our neurophysiology is wired for this connection. It is only in recent times that we have become so far removed from the lifestyle that was intrinsic to being human. 

Research has found that people who spend two hours a week in green spaces are substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who do not. These effects were applicable across different occupations, ethnic groups, people from rich and poor areas, and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. 

So nature is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ bonus. 

Nature is a 'must-have' - an essential service - of a healthy functioning society.

But it’s not just contact with nature – it is the nature of the contact.  Specifically, how one engages with the natural world in order to enhance their sense of connectedness with nature. Psychologists emphasise that we cannot just rely on the visual experience of nature: We need to deepen the forms of interaction with nature to make it more immersive.  And nowadays we need more opportunities and guidance on how to do that effectively.

We need to move beyond only allowing access to nature: connectedness with nature should be a core concern for improving quality of life across society. Connectedness delivers durable health and wellbeing benefits as well as fostering behaviours that help nature too.  

This sits at the heart of Masiyembo's Mission: Remembering our Nature. Securing Our Future.



Ways to Wellbeing through Nature

  • Tuning in with all our senses – slowing, noticing and recognising what's present in nature
  • Responding with emotions - the feelings (e.g. awe, joy, wonder) that nature brings us
  • Appreciating beauty in nature and expressing it with embodied hands-on creativity 
  • Finding meaning, symbolism and stories in nature and reflecting on them
  • Nurturing care, compassion and empathy for nature – tending domestic and wild spaces
  • Giving gratitude for the way in which we benefit from nature everyday
  • Sharing and celebrating our experiences with others - our family and our community


Sources: Robbins (2020)University of Derby NCxRG (2019)Home to Us All (2018) Zylstra et al (2014)
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