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Just one thing

I find it difficult to stick to routines, yet there have been a number of habits that I have incorporated into my days over the last few years. Standing on one leg while I do my teeth, 60 seconds of cold water at the end of a shower, using a standing desk rather than sitting all day. A few months ago I was gratified to find these things and others on a list of 10 easy ways to boost your health and wellbeing during the working day. Far and away the most powerful of these has been the introduction of the early morning walk in nature, inspired, obviously by the covid lockdowns but still remaining a fixture in my life four years later. All these and more were brought to our attention by the late Michael Moseley, and in tribute to him and his extraordinary passion for helping to make wellbeing accessible to mere mortals, I started looking through the Just One Thing archive to see exactly what he had to say about getting out into nature. There's a whole episode dedicated to the power of green spaces and the health benefits they can generate for us. While he is also keen on the benefits of an early morning walk this particular episode is very much not about exercise, it's simply about spending time in a green space, preferably one close to your home so it's easy to do. It is noted that even tree lined urban streets count. Inspired by the research on forest bathing, initially done in Japan, he investigated the measurable benefits of spending time using your senses to experience the sights, sounds and smells of nature. The immune system is both strengthened and calmed, and there are improvements for mental health too with the sounds of nature allowing for less introspection reducing anxiety. In an experiment he conducted in Scotland in winter, participants reported a 30% drop in perceived stress after spending 20 minutes a day in a green space over a three week period, this included feedback from someone who enjoyed a hailstorm from a park bench. No such thing as bad weather etc etc. Finally focus and concentration improves after time spent outdoors, beneficial for adults and children alike. If you would like to try out some sensory nature connection as part of a group, then we have three ParkBathe walks coming up in June, in Hamilton, Rutherglen and East Kilbride. Check out the dates and times and sign up over on our Eventbrite page.

Of course it's not just nature that you can connect to on a walk in your local park, although the opportunity to see the cygnets growing more every day is a welcome attraction. This morning one person drew my attention to the heron sitting in the tree above the pond - an unusual sight, and someone else got excited telling me about using the Merlin app to identify chiffchaffs up at Whitelee Windfarm. That's not to mention the many dogs that I now know by name, even if I have no idea who the human is that they are attached to. I think it's especially important to remember this during Loneliness Awareness Week (10th-16th June) which encourages random acts of connection. There's a list of ideas on their website but I can't believe "point out a heron in a tree" didn't make it on there!

I discovered a new-to-me nature connection substack this week called The Nature Notice Board where the author Zabby Allen introduces herself by saying "I believe that connecting with nature starts with noticing just one thing" and we agree! In her weekly posts she encourages her readers to connect with her and with nature by taking photos of something they have noticed in nature, often with a prompt for something particular to look for. We love this sort of internet content, it's great to have something specific to look for when you go outside but additionally it produces amazing pictures for people who maybe aren't as easily able to get outside. Another of her posts caught my eye, following my conversation in the park about using the Merlin app, with ways that your phone can help you connect to nature rather than distract from it. She links to an article on vodafone with even more nature apps and I'm excited to try out Starwalk and am wondering how we didn't know about the Cloudspotter app having been a member of The Cloud Appreciation Society for years!

As previously mentioned here, the new Lanarkshire Climate Action Hub is now fully staffed and keen to find out about what you are doing in your communities to support climate action. Even better, they have some funding available to help make more of a difference. Seed fund grants of up to £1000 can be used to help engage with your local community around climate change or to start a project to help mitigate the effects of climate change such as setting up a community fridge or food growing space. They have staff specialising in growing and greenspaces, active travel, energy and circular economy so do get in touch if you would like some support with developing an application. The Lanarkshire Climate Action Festival is happening from 9th-22nd September and there are small grants of up to £500 available so that groups can host their own event. From litter picks to local nature walks to a film screening, be as creative as you want to spread the word about climate change to encourage more people to take action!

As noted above, spending time in nature and being connected to it is good for us, but the evidence increasingly shows that our relationship with nature influences our behaviour towards it. The link between people who are connected to nature also taking action to protect nature is strong. Activities that help increase connection to nature, such as growing plants or tidying up a local greenspace, can also help alleviate eco-anxiety, something that feels increasingly important, so these funding offers are a great opportunity for local groups to get started on their nature connection and climate change journey. It's not just for groups already working on these issues.

Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention the big nature festival coming up next Thursday! It's the summer solstice on 20th June at 21.50 signalling the start of astronomical summer. This is the height of the year, of the light; celebrate by lighting a candle on the eve of the solstice as a nod to it being a fire festival, collect some wildflowers - the buttercups have been fabulous this year - to honour the sun, perhaps even raise a toast with some elderflower cordial! Happy Midsummer everyone!

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Thanks for the Substack, it's brilliant!

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