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nature - green leaves and sky

13 May 2021

This is part of a series of blogs to mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, giving a range of perspectives from the London Youth team and across our membership.

It’s Mental Health Awareness week and the theme is nature. And with so much uncertainty over the past year, lots of us have turned to nature. Spending time in green spaces or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing.

Keeping it Wild is a programme that enables young Londoners to run their own environmental social action projects to discover, explore, conserve London’s beautiful nature and environment. We see the benefits of nature, especially over the last year during the pandemic.

Here’s five ways to get inspired by nature in London from some Keeping it Wild projects.

1. Connect

Make connections with the people around you on why nature is important to you.

You could run an intergenerational ‘Walk, Talk, Watch’ like the Shpresa Programme. This helped encourage young people to make connections with older people in their community. This is a great way to learn and connect from other people about what nature and the environment means to you.

Shpresa project - group of people in a park

Or get inspired by goalkeeper Keyaan from Wapping Youth FC who created a banner to connect with his community and share his message about how global warming is causing harm to our wildlife and the environment. Art and creativity are a great way to make connections with your community and spread your message!

I think running Keeping it Wild is important because many young refugees and asylum seekers have felt extremely isolated during lockdown. The Keeping it Wild project gives them the opportunity to connect with other young people and to connect with nature and explore green spaces in London- this also provides them with the agency to visit these places themselves.. Walking group with a group of 6 young people- exploring different parks in London. Gardening group in a local community garden using youth led social action projects. Yoga or running in local parks.” – Tilly, a youth worker at Community Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers

group of young people cleaning up nature

2. Be Active

Step outside, go for a walk or a run cycle, play a game, garden, dance. Or you could start a walking or running group. Anything! Exercising makes you feel good.

Why not connect to your nature in your local area by setting up a scavenger hunt like Youth Catalyst did?

You could organise litter picking events, like Phoenix Rising along the canal is a great way to be active and make an impact in your community.

3. Take Notice

Be curious, London’s wildlife and green spaces are amazing. Notice the changing seasons, be aware of nature around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences of what matters to you. Nature can be great inspiring to get creative – might be through painting, drawing, crafting something, photography or writing – the possibilities are endless.

nature diary
Nouran’s nature diary

Check out Nouran’s nature diary from Compass Collective.

Why not encourage other to take notice of the amazing pollinators in your area like Surrey Docks Farm #LetsGetPollinating campaign?

“At a time when many people were stuck inside and spending so much time on a screen it was really important to reconnect young people with their environment and to remind them of what they’re missing out on. At the Farm we took lots of videos and photographs of the wildlife that were using the space and shared these with the young people. During their daily walks, the youth groups took their cameras out and recorded what they saw to share with us on our social media campaign #LetsGetPollinating” – Lucy, Youth Manager at Surrey Docks Farm

online graphic created by young people4. Keep Learning

Learning new skills, trying new things, sharing knowledge and experiences can be fantastic ways to improve your wellbeing and learn about the amazing nature on your doorstep.

Autus learnt how to create a 3D virtual world to teach young people about conservation and how to make hedgehog houses, birdboxes, wildlife crossings and composters to support nature and wildlife. Their dedicated FLICKR Keeping it Wild page includes instructions on how you can make your own objects to save London’s Wildlife!

5. Give

Keeping it Wild is all about giving back and protecting London’s wildlife and green spaces. Get inspired by some the amazing Keeping it Wild projects in the video below

Created by Andrew Dixon, a member of Keeping it Wild Young People’s Forum

Or check out The Youth Eco Development Council are a group of young people who are passionate about creating change in the Thamesmead area. YEDC organised a litter pick and collected 2,500 litres of rubbish to create an aerial art piece of raise awareness of the extinction of the Marsh Harrier, an endangered bird of prey, once common in Thamesmead. Watch their video here to see the beautiful art piece

Remember, No act is too small! You might put feed out for the birds. You might place a log or stick pile out in your garden for invertebrates. You might provide water in a saucer or bowl for birds and insects. You might start composting your kitchen waste to avoid the food going into landfill. You might take gloves and a litter bag out with you when you go for your daily walk and put rubbish in the bin you or you might share a smile with someone when you’re outside and spread some cheer.” – Lucy, Youth Manager at Surrey Docks Farm

Remember to use the five simple ways to wellbeing in nature: Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Take Notice and Give!

– Allia Fredericks, Youth Action Delivery Officer

Some helpful links

Keeping it Wild is an inclusive environmental action project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund inspiring young people aged 11-25 to get outdoors to discover, explore and conserve a wild space in their community and share their knowledge with others. It is run in partnership with London Youth, London Wildlife Trust, Headliners UK, John Muir Trust Awards.

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