Connect with nature and improve your wellbeing

29 Sep 2022 by Natanya Dreyer

There are many reasons why access to nature is important. This year the focus of Access Week, which fell between 20 and 27 September, was on how wellbeing is connected to nature. Nature areas are able to provide getaways that remove South Africans from the daily stress of urban life and this years recipients of facilitated programmes were shown how they can foster a deeper connection with nature, all while learning more about it at the same time.

The South African CADETS (Thembalethu Branch) visit Goukamma Nature Reserve on 24 September 2022. Some feedback from recipients: “In a way, I feel like this experience has given us the courage to open up to one another and we are more unified as a group'', ''This experience has helped me to overcome my fear of heights, the exercise we did when we were at the highest point in the reserve really made me feel connected with my surrounding which gave me a sense of safety''.

Studies repeatedly show that connection with nature has positive outcomes for mental health. If people feel safe, then meaningful moments in nature can help to reduce stress, anxiety, fatigue; improve mood, energy levels, focus, strengthen our immune system and build psycho-social resilience. It even increases life-expectancy.

But it’s not only about us. Deeper connections with nature also foster care and concern – in other words it motivates pro-nature and pro-social behaviours. Basically, our neurophysiology evolved with nature so we are wired for this relationship. We seek it out. Nature is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ - we actually need it more than ever!

The Angels of Hope group participate in a sensory experience while listening to what is around them, mimicking the ears of a fox.

This year CapeNature partnered with the Masiyembo Association to facilitate tailored Nature-Allied programmes during Access Week. Stakeholder Engagement Officers attended a series of training sessions after which they facilitated programmes for a range of groups during the week, including school, senior, youth and non-profit community groups.

The Rotary Club of Atlantis before setting out for their experience with CapeNature.

The week was a huge success and CapeNature included 300 people from 17 groups to access its nature reserves. CapeNature encourages the public to step out into nature and use its beauty and tranquility to revitalise and restore.

Before setting off into nature, this group from Riverlands are connecting to the natural environment by being asked to close their eyes and answer questions such as where they think the sun rose that morning.