Spending ‘30 Days Wild’ has lasting benefits, study suggests
A new report suggests a daily nature challenge in the UK has a lasting impact on wellbeing and connection to nature
The Daily Optimist
A flash of blue zips past writer and nature enthusiast Amy Shepherd, as she soaks up the sun in her garden in Dorset, United Kingdom (UK). As the butterfly lifts its black-outlined wings, Amy catches a glimpse of dots on the underside. She doesn’t know the type, but taking part in this 30 minute garden watch has piqued her curiosity, so she looks it up. It’s a Holly Blue.
This garden watch was just one of Shepherd’s experiences from the 2019 30 Days Wild. Each June, people are encouraged to have daily interactions with the natural world, whether that’s feeling the hot grass beneath bare feet, eating lunch al fresco, or sketching a plant. The initiative comes from The Wildlife Trusts, a grassroots movement of 46 charities across the UK.
“I’ve always engaged with nature on a therapeutic level, but taking part in the 30 Days Wild campaign last summer allowed me to appreciate the benefit of looking a little harder at the wildlife on our doorstep,” Shepherd said in an interview for the Daily Optimist.
Shepherd grew up near the Jurassic Coast, hunting for fossils on weekends, or roaming the heathland. She’s always loved nature, but she admits that life can often get in the way.
“Increasingly, I was taking lunch at my desk instead of stepping outside to the quay for some fresh air,” she said. “30 Days Wild reminded me why sparing a moment of the day to step away from the desk and soak up some nature is important — even if it’s simply observing the gull who’s got his eye on your sandwich.”
As June rolls around, so too does this year’s challenge. For 2020, there could be even more motivation to join in, as a new report shows that taking part in 30 Days Wild has long-lasting benefits.
The Wildlife Trusts have teamed up with the University of Derby and found that participants not only have an increased sense of wellbeing, happiness, and connection to nature during the challenge, but that they still feel these positive effects for at least two months after the challenge has finished.
This was discovered by analyzing survey responses from five years of the challenge, as well as building on three peer-reviewed papers. Over 1,000 participants were asked to rate their health, connection to nature, happiness, and pro-nature behaviour before the challenge started, when the challenge ended, and again two months later.
The biggest increase came for people who had a weak connection with nature before they took part in the challenge.
Over one million people have now taken part in 30 Days Wild over five years, and 2020 is set to be the biggest yet, with more than 430,000 people signed up. People all across the world are invited to join.
Leanne Manchester, is digital and content manager at The Wildlife Trusts, and says this year’s challenge will be a little different because of COVID-19 lockdowns.
“Instead of perhaps travelling to lots of different nature reserves or getting their friends involved in person, people will be exploring their local areas and gardens, and might be engaging with their friends digitally,” she said.
After participants sign up online, they’re sent downloadable tools to kick off their nature challenge and inspire them to take part in random acts of wildness everyday throughout June. It could involve scattering wildflower seeds, following a bee on its journey, or staying up late to look at the stars.
Leanne says that 30 Days Wild isn’t about the big nature moments, but about taking joy in everyday wildlife.
“If you live in a flat, open your window first thing in the morning to listen to bird song, or look at the shapes of clouds out of the window. If you have a balcony, keep a couple of pollinator-friendly plants outside and enjoy the wildlife that visits,” she says.
There are extra resources for those who find themselves homeschooling due to school closures, and ideas of how to connect with nature while working from home. Those unable to get outside could tune into a Wildlife Trust webcam trained on puffins, badgers, or peregrine falcons.
“Getting involved in 30 Days Wild is important to help people take notice of the wildlife around them, feel better for it, and then nurture a love and desire to protect that wildlife in the future,” Leanne says.
Taking a moment each day to notice nature might not solve the many difficulties people are currently facing, but it could serve as a reminder of what we have on our doorstep, and offer the opportunity for long-lasting increases to wellbeing, health, and happiness. It’s a daily moment of joy, and a better connection to nature in the long run.
Katie Dancey-Downs is a British journalist with a passion for human rights and the environment. Katie has been published by The ‘i’ News, Index on Censorship and The Ecologist, and has been a finalist for the Fresher Writing Prize and the New Media Writing Prize.