2 July, 2019

You Need To Get Out More

Our Activities Team manager, Tim Oliver, reminds us why we need to get out more in the latest YST Blog.

As I was stuck in a traffic jam on the way to a meeting, with the radio burbling away as background noise, I suddenly tuned in to the DJ discussing an article claiming that scientists had proved that 120 minutes in the natural environment per week results in a person being healthier, happier and more creative than people that don’t. 

Whilst I was immediately struck by the irony that I was at that moment confined in a four wheeled metal box doing its best to damage the environment, it got me thinking. I did a bit of digging and the research that matched the headlines was published this month by a team from University of Exeter. The research informed their recommendation that there should be a minimum exposure to the natural environment for health benefits in the same way that there is a recommendation for exercise. Read more about that HERE >.

Maybe our smart watches will soon have a “natural light exposure indicator” in the same way as they guilt us into our 150 minutes of moderate exercise. (Tip – if you accompany an Activity Team session, you’ll get your weekly 120 minutes of natural environment “dosage”, plus be well on your way to your exercise target in one hit!)

The health benefits of getting outside into a natural environment are well researched, but many young people we work with don’t get out – even if they’re surrounded by green space. I’m sure we all know the cases where the horizons of a young person’s life are reduced to the four walls of their room. Indeed, one of the indices of deprivation is access to an outside environment, and the social effects of deprivation are seen in the work we’re involved with. This disconnectedness to both a natural environment and physical exercise is taking its toll in the hearts and minds (and bodies) of our caseloads.

We live in a time where irreparable damage is being done to the natural environment, in hundreds of small actions every day – as Douglas Adams pointed out,

The single raindrop never thinks it is to blame for the flood.”

Political tribalism means that we are unwilling to work together towards a common solution. Research points to connectedness to nature as a way towards one solution – that people are more likely to be active in protecting environments that they value.

Young people are unlikely to live sustainably if adults in their lives model unsustainable practices and have no sense of place or of connection to their environment. With warmer days and better light, maybe we could try to increase young people’s “dosage” of nature in our daily work – it could be as simple as a sandwich in the park or walking with a young person to a nearby appointment.

There is a story of a remote village:

Whenever disaster threatened, the holy man would go into the forest to the hallowed clearing, light the sacred fire, dance and pray – and the village was repeatedly saved. The knowledge of this ceremony was passed down to each generation. With the passing of time, generations forgot some of the aspects of the ritual, but the current holy man would still go into the forest in times of adversity, find the clearing and pray – and the village was spared. As more generations passed, more prosperity and technological advancement meant that the disasters of previous generations were not as commonplace, and the old traditions were, largely forgotten. When a disaster of terrifying proportions that couldn’t be solved by the small village or their technology, the current holy man could only sit in his hut saying

We’ve cut down the forest; I don’t know where the clearing is; I don’t know the woods to use for the sacred fire or the steps to the dance or the words of the prayer. I have only the story – and I don’t know if it will be enough”.

 

To a greater extent, many of us have forgotten the story of what it means to be human; of our connectedness and inter-relatedness to each other and our world. Maybe a simple first step for all or us, and for our work is to get ourselves and our young people outside more, to breath, to give us space and to recognise our place in the order of things – at least there is evidence for Granny’s advice that ,you need to get out more”.

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