The healing power of nature

Dr Catriona Mellor, Specialty Doctor and Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, gives an insight into how nature can boost your mental health.

The healing power of nature

We know fresh air and peaceful surroundings make us feel better – so, why is this not a core part of everyone’s daily routine and working life?

Evidence suggests time in natural surroundings improves physical health (overweight, immune function, cardiovascular disease) at the same time as reducing stress and depression, and improving attention, memory and emotion regulation.

We now understand that it’s about more than just ‘going outdoors’. Helping someone experience that they are part of the wider web of life and are connected to the natural world around them (Nature Connectedness) is linked to increase happiness, fulfilment, meaning and purpose.

Dr Catriona Mellor said: “Doing therapy outdoors makes new insights possible. Nature is a great co-therapist: offering rich metaphors, stimulating the senses and promoting embodied presence, and providing robust containment without the need for walls.

“Cultivating a reciprocal relationship is very important. We need to actively restore and rejuvenate natural environments, so they are there for us. Also, the very act of taking care of nature is good for our mental health.”

Oxford Health is working with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to run Families in the Wild, an outdoor multifamily intervention for young people from the adolescent inpatient environment. The programme is being piloted this year by Marlborough House, hosted in a beautiful setting of woodland and lakes and based on the successful programme that has run for years at Riverside Unit, Bristol. Families spend time doing forest-school type activities and have time to talk and have fun, in this fresh regenerative environment.

Quotes from participants included:

“It was lovely to be relaxed as a family, it felt a long time since that had happened.”

“Families in the Wild has allowed us to experience new activities together outdoors. It has reminded us of the qualities, strengths and love we have together. We felt it was more authentic than a therapy room.”

The staff training alongside Families in the Wild had remarkable positive impact on the team members involved. Comments from staff included:

“It took me out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed it.”

“What a great day! I thought it was a wonderful setting and felt very relaxed. What a lovely team we have! Made me feel better about the world.”
“My highlight was lighting the fires and boiling water. I thought this was a real test of perseverance and a great team building exercise. We all had to take different roles to make it work and when our fire went out (more than once!) we really worked hard together to get it going again. And the hot chocolate afterwards was so rewarding and tasted all the better for the hard work it took to make it!”

Catriona will be speaking in our lunchtime webinar Health Matters: Connecting with Nature at 12:30pm on Wednesday, May 12. To join, please click on The event will be chaired by Trust Chair David Walker, and the other speakers are John Upham, Compliance and Sustainability Manager and Julie Pink, Head of Charity and Community Involvement.

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Published: 11 May 2021