The impact of green exercise on volunteers’ mental health and well being: findings from a community project in a woodland setting

Christie, Mark and Cole, Fiona (2017) The impact of green exercise on volunteers’ mental health and well being: findings from a community project in a woodland setting. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 27 (1). pp. 17-33.

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Abstract

An increasingly robust evidence base supports the therapeutic value of nature on mental health and well being. The rise in reported mental ill-health across the world has major implications for the effective use of healthcare budgets, as well as economic consequences. Health practitioners may need to consider going beyond traditional mental health service provision and look to more widespread engagement with community-based interventions. This is especially important given that the structured nature of service provision may present significant challenges for some people with mental ill-health (MIND, 2016). Thus, this study explored the experiences of volunteers with mental health problems attending an unorthodox center in a woodland setting within the North West of England, which seeks to promote health and well being through green exercise. An ethnographic approach, involving the use of fieldwork diaries and photographs, explored the center’s informal and unique physical and socio-cultural environment. Formally researching as outsiders on participants was deemed incongruent with the empowering ethos of the center. Following a six-week relationship building period, in which the researchers immersed themselves in the practical activities, individual fieldwork interviews were conducted with each of the volunteers (n=11). Transcribed data revealed three key themes underpinning the self-reported positive impacts on personal mental health and well being. The importance of the physical and social environment was paramount, whereby volunteers recognized the restorative effects of the natural environment, but also stressed the flexible, informal and ‘no nonsense’ ethos of the center, combined with the social support, as major factors in delivering positive health outcomes. The clear sense of purpose and meaning underpinning activity choice participation, and the feeling of togetherness this fostered, were also major influences. Using existing skills and developing new ones demonstrated the power of occupational engagement in enhancing enjoyment, achievement and overall contribution. Recognition of the influence of the context and structure of services on people’s ability to engage in therapeutic activities is therefore crucial in order to enable people to access support in their mental health recovery.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture
Publisher: American Horticultural Therapy Association
ISSN: 1088-3487
Departments: Sports and Physical Activity
Depositing User: Mark Christie
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2019 14:44
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2019 15:16
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4856

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