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Survey reveals people turned to nature to help mental and physical wellbeing during coronavirus lockdown

By Philip Murray

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A male Yellowhammer perching on a hawthorn hedge. Picture: Scottish Natural Heritage/©Lorne Gill.
A male Yellowhammer perching on a hawthorn hedge. Picture: Scottish Natural Heritage/©Lorne Gill.

THE Covid-19 lockdown has turned many Scots into lovers of the great outdoors – a new survey has found.

A new survey by Scottish Natural Heritage found that an increase in the number of people visiting the outdoors to enjoy nature and stay healthy during the lockdown.

The organisation said the survey results were the first confirmation that people were turning to nature to help their mental and physical wellbeing.

The survey found that levels of participation in nature focused activities increased significantly during lockdown – many relaxed in their garden (62%), took part in gardening (42%), enjoyed wildlife in their garden (36%) and enjoyed watching wildlife from indoors through a window (30%).

The 1000 people surveyed revealed that Scots took more outdoor exercise and expect to continue this as restrictions lift, with:

  • 70% citing health as a motivator for getting outdoors.
  • More than 1 in 3 people specifically referencing managing stress as a reason for exercising outdoors (35%).
  • 63% of those stating their experiences had helped them de-stress, relax and unwind, and 58% felt energised and revitalised.

The survey also found:

  • 34% of Scots getting a daily dose of nature, compared to 22% prior to lockdown.
  • 71% heading outside at least once a week, up from 59%.
  • 89% of outdoor visitors took regular local walks (an increase from 77%) and around 20% running or cycling (up from 5%).

SNH chief executive, Francesca Osowska, said: “Nature is at the heart of our emergence from this crisis. The results from this survey reinforce just how important nature is for all of us – both physically through exercising and emotionally for our mental health.”

“During lockdown, activities such as noticing birds and wildlife, and the change in seasons, were relatively high, even among those who rarely or never visited the outdoors. These people have made an important first step in loving nature and experiencing all the benefits. We want to help them keep it up.”

And, to build on that enthusiasm SNH has today launched a campaign, Make Space for Nature.

The campaign is seeking to encourage everyone to continue to make space for nature in their lives – be it a daily walk or taking a mindful minute to listen to birdsong. SNH added that Giving something back through nature volunteering or contributing to nature surveys were also great ways for people to make space for nature in their day, and crucial to help understand and improve the state of Scotland’s nature for the future.

Ms Osowska added: “These survey results and the enthusiastic response to the Make Space for Nature campaign gives us confidence that Scotland is well placed to reverse the decline in diversity of animal and plant species in Scotland. As the need for nature is ever more apparent, the way Scotland recovers from Covid-19 could be one important way we secure a nature rich future for generations to come.”

Make Space for Nature encourages people to further explore simple, fun activities that can help nature thrive – from submitting sightings of birds, frogs, and butterflies - to swapping pollinator-friendly plant cuttings with friends and even learning to love weeds – a great food source for pollinators.

SNH is keen to encourage and support people to develop their interest, learn more and get involved in nature. Top tips to help everyone continue to make space for nature in their lives this summer can be found online www.nature.scot/scotlands-biodiversity/make-space-nature-summer.

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