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Global Wellness Summit highlights benefits of outdoor experiences
The most recent Global Wellness Summit (GWS) highlighted extensive lockdowns and social distancing - as well as an acute awareness of the destruction of the environment spurred by COVID-19 travel restrictions - has placed a new value on the innate benefits of being outdoors.
A panel of media experts at the November Summit, predicted six key trends, and among them was a newfound, deep connection to nature. Of course, the need for nature was already on the rise before the pandemic hit; the crisis has only served to amplify what many wellness experts were already saying - humans have an innate need to convene with the wider world (not just their screens), and there is plenty of science to back up the benefits of spending time in nature.
GWS trend forecasters have long been touting the wellness benefits of nature and were some of the first to identify the now-ubiquitous concept of ‘Forest Bathing’ as a key wellness trend in 2015. The concept, which originated in Japan, has exploded in popularity all over the world.
In 2019, GWS trend forecasters predicted that doctors would soon be ‘Prescribing Nature’. The conclusion of this trend feels incredibly prescient in light of the pandemic’s impact on our need for nature in 2020 - Imagine going to your doctor and, instead of a prescription for some named or generic pharmaceutical, you instead receive a prescription for a 30-minute walk in nature.
On the last day of 2020, WebMD published an article outlining all the ways nature can help with the COVID-19 stress with University of Scranton author and professor of psychology, Dr John Norcross commenting “we call it ‘vitamin N’…and tell people that vitamin N is (spending) 30 minutes in nature.”
On the 2020 GWS wellness trends panel, Elaine Glusac, travel columnist for the New York Times, explained that slow, human-powered travel (cycling, hiking, walking, paddling trips) is growing fast, not only because they’re wellness experiences, but because they’re naturally socially distanced activities. She argued that there is an uptick in interest in sustainable travel—and in the newer concept that takes it even further, regenerative travel, which is not just reducing your carbon footprint, but actually leaving the place better than you found it.
The beauty of nature is that you don’t have to go too far to experience it - a huge boon for driveable destinations in a time when air travel is pretty much off the table. Wellness destinations situated within intrinsically beautiful locations are amping up their outdoor programming and marketing closer to home. RV sales are way up. Sales of bikes and hiking and camping gear are through the roof. And, with everyone spending more time at home, there’s a marked movement to bring the indoors outside, creating new outdoor spaces that are comfortable and enable social distancing.
Another benefit? In a time when many are profoundly cash strapped, getting out in nature alone or with friends can also be completely free while being utterly freeing to our minds - making it the great mental wellness equaliser.
The Global Wellness Institute’s recent study, “Defining the Mental Wellness Economy,” reported “most mental wellness strategies are free - like spending time in nature.”
The data backs up the benefits: In a recent study published in Medical News Today on how the pandemic has influenced our relationship with nature, 60% of respondents reported improved mental health and wellbeing after being outdoors.
Image top: Great Southern Regional Trails Bald Head. Credit @katackroyd The Great Southern Centre for Outdoor Recreation Excellence (GSCORE) has announced the launch of a strategic, ten-year plan to develop a network of sustainable trails encouraging family-friendly, outdoor experiences across Western Australia’s Great Southern region.
Image below: Courtesy of Centennial Park/ Louise Kiddell. Sydney’s Centennial Park Forest Bathing or Nature Connection Walks help people to restore and regenerate themselves through remembering the simple pleasures in the natural world around them. Sensory immersion in nature helps us to access the calm alert state we try to reach through meditation but often find difficult to achieve.
16th December 2020 - Event highlights the importance of developing Nature Play across NSW
8th December 2020 - Awards showcase Western Australia’s contribution to Outdoor Recreation Sector
11th November 2020 - Global Wellness Institute reports mental wellness to be a $121 billion market
6th November 2020 - Recreation Aotearoa encourages participation in Get Outdoors Week activities
18th September 2020 - GSCORE launches plan to develop sustainable trails across the Great Southern region
10th September 2020 - FITREC delivers Code of Practice for outdoor fitness training in public spaces
15th April 2020 - Nature key to New Zealand’s post Coronavirus recovery
26th March 2020 - World Urban Parks emphasises that ‘Nature Never Closes’
7th September 2019 - Global Wellness Institute announces new initiative to define yoga therapy
9th November 2016 - Bushwalking and shopping rank as most popular Australian holiday activities
3rd February 2016 - Massive growth in bushwalking as ‘green exercise’ and holiday activity
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