Working with Nature to Support our Mental Health

World Mental Health Day 2018

It is perhaps normal to think of our physical health. If you hurt your arm, you will happily share that information.  However if your mental health is suffering, it is harder to be comfortable to share that you are feeling stressed, anxious, and even harder to get to a point where you may need to seek more help.

As a culture, we are particularly bad at talking about our feelings, what educationalists would call our emotional literacy.   Many schools across the UK do have programmes to help young people communicate what they are feeling, yet the teachers are rarely honest and open themselves!

Part of the difficulty is that we as adults, educators, health practitioners and parents are not used to sharing feelings and don’t have the communication skills to articulate what is going on for us.  We resist being open, as this feels exposing and dangerous.  What is it about our society that feels so unsafe to share feelings?

We offer tailor-made nature-based therapeutic experiences for children, young people and adults from all walks of life. We can work with young people and families who are experiencing challenges or emotional distress at school or home and are struggling to cope with day to day life.The importance of feeling safe cannot be underestimated.  This both comes from the individual and the container/society.  If the school, home, parent doesn’t feel safe, then it is unlikely to be an environment for people to share openly.  As adults working with young people, we need to be more careful, to provide the quality of listening and helpful words to support the journey of growing up.  At the same time though, I believe it is equally necessary for the adults to do their own work on feelings and to learn how to share what is going on for them and to take the risk of doing that.  I am not saying that we share all our baggage and personal stories, but I am saying that we feel able to choose appropriately what personal information we may say to support a meaningful connection, and to be an active listener.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health:

“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

In our organisation, we believe in the power of nature to transform our well- being.  Over many years, through our projects,  I have witnessed an increase in physical and mental health, reduced stress and an increase in an aptitude for learning across the ages.  In effect through nature-based experiences we are able to transform education, health and family life.   Our model brings together practitioners who are comfortable with their emotions, skills at listening and care about others well-being.  All our projects support personal development, which means at times going to uncomfortable places and having difficult conversations.

Supporting young people with mental health issuesOur flagship project is known as ‘The Woodland Project’.  This is a partnership project with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and CAMHS learning disability and Family Intensive Support Service (CAMHS-LD- FISS).  One of our programmes offers young people who have diagnosed mental health issues a monthly day in the woods as a group.   The young people may live with a variety of mental health issues, from eating disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, Personality disorder and are some of the most articulate and vibrant young people I have ever met.  They do struggle to work positively with what they experience and are incredibly supportive of each other.

What can be challenging is how our culture stigmatises the young people and families who are living with a range of difficulties. Some behaviour is very cruel.  People share that they feel so isolated, as it is too challenging to access many community spaces.

We are currently running a programme for teenagers who are suffering from mental health issues

Natural spaces are often great levellers, where we can begin to feel relaxed (natural spaces reduce cortisol levels), and free ourselves to have different experiences in a group setting that re-build our self esteem, and give us a new and different perspectives on ourselves and the world around us.  Nature is a very forgiving environment, alongside all the multitude of benefits being outside in a supportive group provides.

Today is a day of celebrating our mental health and supporting ourselves and others to feel safe enough to feel, and be listened to.  My advice is to take a risk and share something that you wouldn’t normally –  the benefit is worth the risk and hopefully you will feel a little bit of joy!

Below are various personal videos about our Mental Health Project with Teenagers.

“The woods is a safe space to re-connect, it is healing and welcoming, I feel like I am not judged and I have learnt about the kind of person I want to be, without pressure and stress.”

CPD’s & Training Programmes

Courses and trainings

 

At Circle of Life Rediscovery, we run CPD’s and Training programmes for health and education practitioners:

 

21st & 22nd March – Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth. The theme is ‘Alchemical Ash’.

1st & 2nd April 2019 – Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space with Marina Robb and Kate Macairt.

23rd & 24th September – Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth. The theme is ‘Suffocating Ivy.’ 

In 2019 we are developing a 4 day Nature & Mental Health training programme for practitioners, exploring best practise from nature and well-being. Learn how to deliver ‘Green Care’ interventions. To express your interest, please click here.

Group Nature-based Therapeutic Interventions

We offer bespoke Nature- based therapeutic interventions for groups of people experiencing similar needs. These ‘green-care’ group packages are tailor made for particular client groups. Find out more.

Team Building & Away Days

We work closely with clients to deliver bespoke team building and away days for organisations, ensuring an effective and creative learning experience. We aim to draw out your skills, improve communication and confidence, give you a fresh perspective and to inspire! Contact us to hear more or call 01273 814226.

“It was the best away day I have ever been to and I would like to do it all again! The facilitators are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, it was a beautiful and peaceful setting and there was a good mix of sociable and quieter activities. I loved this away day and will have fond memories of the time we spent in your wood. The activities arranged for our team were simple yet meaningful. They were also thoughtfully put together, with activities that: required us to work together on a goal; pushed us (comfortably) to do new things; connected with our sense of fun and silliness; and some were quiet, solitary and mindful. Doing tasks we would never normally do together and never do in our workplace – making fires, using knives to craft things – helped us be and work together in a way that enhanced our team relationships. It rained, but we had a great time! Thank you.”
Dr Simon Tobitt, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Assessment & Treatment Service and Recovery & Wellbeing Service: High Weald, Lewes and Havens.

Donate

If you would like to make a donation to support the future of our Woodland Days to support young people and families, please contact us.

#WorldMentalHealthDay2018

International Day Of Happiness

On International Day Of Happiness we celebrate….

Celebrating on International Day Of Happiness!

 

A year ago today we launched The Woodland Project campaign to gain valuable funding from The National Lottery. Nine months on, after winning the funds, we are pleased to let you know on International Day Of Happiness, how the Project has been going and what we have achieved!

 

 

What makes us happy…

Since July 2018, the funding has enabled us to run the following days:

  • 13 FISS Family Days
  • 4 CAMHS Family Days
  • 3 Staff Training Days
  • 10 Parent Taster Days
  • 9 Teenage Woodland Days
  • 1 Teenage Woodland Camp
  • 1 Celebration Day

Support The Woodland Project on International Day Of Happiness

 

The Woodland Project in East Sussex offers days out in nature for families who have a child with a severe physical or learning disability, families who have a child experiencing mental health issues and 11-18 year olds who are accessing mental health services. The Woodland Project allows these families to spend quality time together, relax in their natural surroundings, free of distractions and judgement.

 

 

What would make us really happy

The Woodland Project is run by Circle of Life Rediscovery and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The project is funded solely through donations and external funding. We desperately need continuous funding to support the future of the project! If you are able to donate, please do so by the link below and please share!

“In the woods my son is calm and happy. We look forward to coming to the woods because he can be himself in a safe environment. I can be his parent, rather than just his carer.”

This project is one of the most valuable things we have. I don’t think of it as therapy when I am here, it feels like a family day.  It is difficult to find things we can do with my daughter. Here there are understanding people, who are able to keep her occupied which enables us to have a family day out. Often we are protecting her or others. Here it is relaxing, it’s not about protection and this is really, really rare.” 

“We have never used a service for the whole family before. We don’t get out much, I think this is the longest my son has spent outside in living memory. This is phenomenally good. He is safe and the girls are happily occupied, we haven’t had that kind of freedom before, today has given us a different perspective that it is possible.”

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery

As well as funded programmes, Circle of Life Rediscovery offers unique nature-based experiences across East Sussex. These included bespoke camps for schools, forest school sessions and enrichment days. Plus CPD’s, in-house training and forest school training for adults.

 

Fired Up February! Teenage Woodland Programme Update

February’s session of the Teenage Woodland Programme saw an eclectic mix of handy craft, skills and pizza fired straight from the hand built oven itself.

Making fires at the Teenage Woodland Programme encourages team building and confidence

 

During the day there was the usual building of fires which time after time provides a great sense of teamwork amongst the group and in turn strengthens the relationships between the participants on the teenage woodland programme.

Warmth is such a basic human need and so by working with each other to create that, it becomes even more meaningful.

Pizza oven! - find out more about our woodland site!

 

Of course then made all the more tastier when creating ones own pizza with an impressive variety of toppings for the outdoors, I’m sure I saw some chorizo!

 

Find out more about our woodland site!

 

The pizzas certainly went down a storm and I’m sure they’ll will be back on the woodland menu again (even if I have to champion it myself).

 

 

The Teenage Programme - showing off our skills!

 

There was an abundance of craft and skills happening throughout the day. At one end of the base camp a participant was using aerial silks and showing off her learnt moves – very impressive and a joy to watch.

 

The Teenage Programme - making bird and bat boxesOn the other side of the camp participants were continuing to build their bird and bat boxes which helps to enable the crucial conservation of the wood itself.

A couple of participants also took to creating little leather pouches, just big enough to hold something significant like a grounding stone. I for one still carry my stone and leather pouch, with its drawing of a bear paw with me wherever I go. I made it in 2012 when I was once a CAMHS participant on the woodland days. Sometimes the smallest and simplest of things carry with them such power and almighty strength.

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery - visit our website to find out more about us

 

S’mores, music and discussion sealed the day and what a packed day it was. Yet throughout there was an air of calm and thoughtfulness amongst the group which was interesting.

Not too far off we’ll start to see the beginning changes of nature heading towards Spring. That’s one of the brilliant things about this month by month project is that we began in Autumn and we’ll finish in Summer, so all the changing seasons will be witnessed in our woodland.

 

By Emma Thorne

CAMHS Peer Trainer

Circle of Life Rediscovery

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery has been working alongside young people and CAMHS East Sussex (Discovery College) for 10 years co-developing nature-based days where you can come along and be with other people who listen without judgement.

The course is free and has been designed and delivered with young people who have experienced mental health challenges. The programme will continue to run throughout the year ending in a camp in July! We will co-create a fun, safe and healing time together, have discussions and stories around the fire and rediscover our gifts and how nature can support our well-being.

January’s New Beginnings – The Teenage Programme

Woodland Project Teenage Programme – Windchill & Chocolate Muffins

By Emma Thorne
CAMHS Peer Trainer

Happy New Year and a great big hello to 2018!

Woodland games at the Teenage ProgrammeJanuary saw in the fourth Teenage Programme Woodland Day of the current Woodland Programme and it was certainly a chilly one with a ‘refreshing’ breeze flowing through the camp.

Though despite the cold (which a roaring fire always helps to rectify) we had the weather on our side and were free from the rain – woo hoo! Although wellie boots remain a necessity, of course.

Connection & Friendships

We had a big ol’ group of participants in the teenage programme session this month which was brilliant. It’s particularly special when the same participants keep coming back each month. It really feels now, in our fourth session, that the young people are becoming more connected with one another. Friendships are forming which is heart-warming as a Peer Trainer to see.

Baking chocolate muffins! Part of the Teenage ProgrammeActivities

There were plenty of activities this month to satiate the participants’ bounding energy. Such included baking (think chocolate muffins ft. brownie- the squidge was right on point!), games, a long walk deep in the heart of the woodland and a craft making activity.

The participants began to build various type of bird boxes which coincides with the thinking around conservation of the precious woodland. So whilst we’re all out enjoying our time in the woods, the young people are doing something to give back to the woodland itself.

Fire making

 

 

It all comes full circle. If you look after a space, the space will look after you.

 

 

 

Pizza oven cookies!Food, Stories & Music

Fuelled with sausages and burgers (and cookies made in the pizza oven) participants and team sat around the cosy fire to hear a story from Sheila. Sheila is a woodland volunteer on the teenage programme. It’s one of my favourite moments of the day, to sit calmly with tea in hand, and feel captivated by the often – thought provoking story.

We were then treated to some music from a participant whom had brought his guitar along, which was fab and the young people were soon quick to identify the hit songs being effortlessly strummed out. Inspiration in hand this soon provoked the idea to adlib a song from scratch, guitar playing and all, which I’m sure will one day become a woodland hit!

See you all in February!

Samurai Games

Circle of Life Rediscovery have been working alongside young people and CAMHS East Sussex (Discovery College) for 10 years co-developing nature-based days where you can come along and be with other people who listen without judgement. The teenage programme will continue to run throughout the year ending in a camp in July!

 

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery is a Community Interest Company that has been working since 2004 to reconnect people from all backgrounds and ages to the natural world. They offer outdoor learning programmes including forest school sessions, forest school training, CPD’s, bespoke curriculum linked outdoor learning days and tailor made residential camps for schools.

Tel: 01273 814226

Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

website: www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Teenage Woodland Day, October 2017

Toffee Apples and Mythical Creatures

Our Teenage Woodland Programme

October 23rd saw in the first session of the Teenage Woodland Programme. The new woodland season, which has been kindly funded by The People’s Projects in association with The Big Lottery Fund and ITV, will run from October 2017 to June 2018.

You can read about the full Programme here.

It’s exciting to begin the Teenage Woodland Programme when the woodland is in such a great period of change. The leaves have turned from vivid green to burnt orange, mushrooms and toadstools strewn across the woodland floor and in the air, the smell that Autumn is in full swing.

What we did, unicorns and all!

Toffee apples on the fire! Our Teenage Woodland Programme

It was a jam packed day, for both participants and the woodland team. The rain poured, but it didn’t dampen spirits. It was all happening from fire building, to toffee apple toasting, to wood carving utter knives and mythical creatures – a participant made a fabulous unicorn!

As the rain dripped down from the trees, with participants sat under the dry tarp, we were treated to a story from the newest member of the team, about Norse mythical creatures. Tea in hand, it was a wonderful way to bring the group back together after participants had been tending to their fires and making homemade toffee apples.

New and Old Faces

“I can’t express enough how much relaxing, healing and peace there has been for me today.”

Listen carefully when toasting an apple over a fire, its skin will blacken, but the sound that is produced is best described as though the apple is ‘screaming’. Eerie, but intriguing. I’m looking forward to hearing more tales and stories.

It was great to see so many participants join us on the day, new faces and old. My greatest wish is that everyone who came in October’s session, will join us in November’s session and so on. It’s such a unique project for Discovery College, and one which I believe holds a lot of energy and power.

For a young person who is struggling with their mental health to get out of the house is one thing, but for that young person to develop their skills and knowledge in a place that could soon become a familiar, safe space is another. I’m just so grateful for this funding as it enables us another opportunity to spread the word to young people who are struggling, that the woodland is a wonderful and magical place to be, and in the space that we hold in Vert Community Woods, full of kind and supportive people.

By Emma Thorne
CAMHS Peer Trainer

About the Woodland Programme

The Woodland Programme is aimed at young people aged 13-19 who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

Circle of Life Rediscovery, our woodland site

Circle of Life Rediscovery have been working alongside young people and CAMHS East Sussex (Discovery College) for 10 years co-developing nature-based days where teenagers can come along and be with other people who listen without judgement.

 

The programme will continue to run throughout the year ending in a camp in July. The woodland is a very calming and relaxing space, young people who have been before tell us it is very freeing. 

 

Circle of Life Rediscoverywww.circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226

info@circleofliferediscovery.com