The physical and mental health benefits of being in the outdoors have long been recognized. Besides simply encouraging people to spend more time outside, researchers are increasingly interested in how to harness these benefits through more deliberate and structured use of the outdoors.
A project aimed at doing exactly this was implemented in the UK recently. The program provides outdoor work experiences such as forestry and building work to people suffering or recovering from various mental health related illnesses such as stroke or depression.
Researchers analysed the effectiveness of the program, reporting statistically and clinically significant improvements in depression, anxiety, resilience and social connection by the end of the brief intervention. The results were published in the Journal of Mental Health, with one researcher saying it seemed to have a more lasting effect than the traditional clinical therapy approach for this group of patients.
With these positive initial results, analysts hope this will be a launch pad for further research and development of similar programs in the future.