Getting up close and personal with nature can boost our wellbeing, according to new research  from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), the University of Derby and the British Science Association published last week in People and Nature journal (

All volunteers who took part in our Nature Up Close and Personal: A Wellbeing Experiment project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), reported higher levels of wellbeing and greater connectedness to nature after completing a series of nature-based activities over an eight-day period. 

It reminded me that small things can make a big difference to my mood.

What did the research look at?  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when the nation experienced prolonged periods of lockdown and social isolation, many of us learned or re-discovered how important nature and being outdoors is to our happiness and wellbeing.  

What we didn’t know was how different types of nature activities can affect us in different ways. This question sat at the heart of our project.  

What did volunteers do?  

In the summer of 2020, as lockdown restrictions started to ease, we recruited 500 volunteers from across the UK to carry out simple 10-minute nature-based activities at least five times over an eight-day period.  

We set out to measure the wellbeing benefits of taking part in different types of nature activities, including: 

  • Citizen science projects, where volunteers observed and recorded data for the purposes of wider research and environmental monitoring, such as conducting surveys of pollinating insects or butterflies; and  
  • Nature-noticing activities, where volunteers spent at least 10 minutes in a natural green space, looking and listening to the world around them, and writing down three positive things they observed. 

Volunteers took short surveys before the project, one week after completing their activities and two months later.  

What did we find?  

A group of people placing their hands on a tree branch

Researchers from the UKCEH and the University of Derby found that every volunteer who took part in the project reported higher levels of wellbeing and greater connectedness to nature after taking part. 

It gave me permission to slow down.

What’s more, volunteers who took part in the nature-noticing activity were more likely to adopt pro-nature behaviours beyond the project, such as planting more pollinator-friendly plants in their gardens or creating shelters for wildlife, extending the project’s benefits to nature.  

It made me more aware of nature in all aspects of the environment.

Dr Michael Pocock, ecologist and academic lead for public engagement with research at UKCEH, said:  

Being in and around nature is good for our wellbeing, and we’ve shown that focused, active engagement with nature is just as important – whether that is ‘mindful moments’ in nature or taking part in citizen science.

Professor Miles Richardson, who leads the Nature Connectedness Research Group at the University of Derby and who co-authored the research report, said:  

People connect with nature in different ways, so it’s great to see nature-based citizen science can provide another form of active engagement that can strengthen the human-nature relationship. When combined with noticing the positive emotions nature can bring, citizen science and help unite both human and nature’s wellbeing.

Get involved 

Want to experience the benefits of getting up close and personal with nature yourself, and make a meaningful difference to conservation efforts? Here are some ways you can get involved:  

More information 

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