In our latest guest blog we welcome Claudette Anderson from our good friends at Go Jauntly. Claudette shares how local green spaces and nature have been vital for her this year, the value of noticing nature for our mental health and how the latest features in the Go Jauntly app can help us all to get that daily dose of green space.
"Hi, I'm Claudette and I'm great at appreciating the nature around me" was a version of me pre-lockdown. I was pretty good at going on wildlife walks with my family and helping my children to observe our garden visitors and the seasonal changes. However, the unprecedented year of 2020 has taught me that I wasn't doing enough for myself to reap the mental health benefits of noticing nature every day.
The benefits to our mental wellbeing from being in and around green spaces are well documented through research; from reducing stress and anxiety, to feeling a greater connection with our community and environment. Despite this, I have found it all too easy at times to get caught up in the mundane tasks of daily life and not remind myself to take a break and observe my surroundings.
I'm lucky to have a garden and to live a few minutes away from Epping Forest in east London which gives me easy access to a lush green space on my doorstep. However, the Green Space Index clearly shows that over the next 20 years, the amount of green space per person will significantly reduce as communities grow. This is a sobering statistic to consider and lockdown has made many people realise what researchers have been saying for years; the impact of nature connection on wellbeing should not be understated.
Although reduction in green space is a major concern, one piece of good news is that you don't necessarily need to have access to a green space to connect with nature. In 2017, my colleagues and I at Go Jauntly partnered with the Nature Connectedness Research Group at the University of Derby to create a research app platform that would help measure the impact of noticing nature on mental health. The research app, which prompted users to record 'good things' in nature in urban areas, found that the smartphone app can bring clinically significant improvements in mental health. These 'good things' in nature could be something as simple as bird song outside the window, or a weed growing up through the pavement on the street.
The new dynamic nature walks feature in the Go Jauntly app can intelligently create the greenest walking routes for you. If it takes you through a Fields in Trust protected space we'd love to hear about it: tweet us @FieldsInTrust and @gojauntly! Why not include a selfie in the park?
To help bring these benefits to a wider audience, especially when struggling to spend time outside while in lockdown, we have incorporated this 'green prescription' feature into the iOS app. Nature Notes works as a nature diary of sorts, encouraging users to keep a record of their daily connections with nature in order to improve wellbeing. In the coming months we will be releasing the feature on Android to further spread the benefits of reconnecting with what's around us every day.
Nature Notes was a godsend while on lockdown earlier this year with my two young children. We tended to do the same walk a few times a week and it reminded me to try to ignore my own stresses and see our surroundings through the eyes of a child. My 4-year-old and I used the app together to take pictures of spring flowers, the plane-free skies, and to check in on a wood pigeon nest which was next to our favourite snack spot. I also got into the habit of using it at home and taking breaks while remote working to spot branches blowing in the wind or a squirrel digging up the tomatoes (again!).
With the whole country experiencing another lockdown, we've been working hard at Go Jauntly to launch our latest green prescription, a unique 'green routes for you' collection. This new feature makes it easy to incorporate green spaces into your daily life by intelligently creating walks from your doorstep that prioritise nature, tranquillity and lower pollution levels. If you no longer have a commute then you can select a circular route as an excellent option to start your day, with a little exercise and a personalised dose of nature from your house! This new feature also allows you to select the greenest route when going from A to B via our updated walking map, perfect for those who are still commuting, taking children to school or for an alternative route to essential shops and services that avoid main roads and prioritise greener areas. We hope that these dynamic green walking routes will particularly support access to green space for the 1 in 8 people in urban areas who don't have a garden.
Our mental health isn't static and 2020 has shown us that many of the things that affect it are out of our control. We can however support ourselves by reconnecting with nature, using technology to help us. Whether you're dedicating some time to enjoying a green walk, or you're snatching moments on a busy day to observe the clouds out of your window, getting into a habit of noticing nature can only be a good thing.
Hopefully, the momentum gathered in the green prescription movement during lockdown continues on beyond the pandemic. Through a combination of government protections on natural spaces and a community-led movement advocating nature connection for health, we can work to make access to green space a high priority in the years to come.
Claudette Anderson is Community and Sales Manager at Go Jauntly.
Claudette Anderson is the Community and Sales Manager at Go Jauntly. With three years experience in communications and ten years in the public sector as qualified geography and Advanced Skills Teacher, she assists the team to grow the number of partnerships they have across the UK and internationally. Claud is passionate about education and technology that supports a greater connection with our planet and is a keen jauntstar, regularly curating family-friendly walks for the app with her young kids in tow.