Immerse Yourself

With International Forest Bathing Day falling on 12 September, I thought I would explore this intriguing idea, which for many people has become a way to improve wellbeing.

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The expression “forest bathing” is memorable and striking, but could also be confusing. Not only is there no need to get wet, but you don’t even have to be in a forest. The expression is used to cover different ways of connecting with nature and the outdoors. Thinking about bathing, I think of words like cleansing, immersive and soaking. So maybe this is an opportunity to feel your mind “cleansed” as you “immerse” yourself in the natural world, and “soak in” the sights and sounds of a forest, a field or a single city tree. Unlike a shower, where the focus is on speed, bathing is more about slowing down and going deeper, absorbing: as is forest bathing as a form of nature connection.

And why forest bathing? Forests do have a particular place in popular imagination. They are hushed, places of stillness, a world of their own. They enfold you in their shade. So again there’s the idea of an immersive experience of nature – but as we know, that’s in no way limited to forests themselves. I used to walk regularly in a wood. There was a hush, a feeling of being enclosed, away from the open fields which surrounded the wood. Walking there regularly I got to see it in all different moods and times of year. But now that I live nowhere near a wood or forest, I still immerse myself in nature all the time.

Founded two years ago, the Forest Bathing Institute is working to develop forest bathing in the UK: running forest bathing gatherings at places like Leith Hill, Kew Gardens and the RSPB Sandy reserve, and training people to become forest bathing guides themselves. Another important aspect of their work is cooperating with six UK universities on research into the impact of forest bathing. Lived experience and testimonials can be powerful, but assessment, monitoring of measurable impacts, is needed if forest bathing is to gain the recognition and funds it deserves. To this end, the UK’s first peer-reviewed research paper into forest bathing’s health benefits has recently been published. It reveals clear impacts on mood, emotions and also heart rate.

And forest bathing is growing rapidly. Organisations like the National Trust & Forestry England promote and explore forest bathing. Many Forest School programmes in different locations draw on forest bathing. With forest bathing videos on You Tube, you don’t even have to be in nature – instead you can try immersing yourself in the natural world from your desk or chair.

The more forest bathing grows and the more research is done, the more questions will be answered. I wonder if people who live in urban areas benefit most from forest bathing, as a welcome contrast to their everyday? I wonder if forest and woodland will be proven to have a stronger impact than other natural settings?

Thinking of forest bathing reminded me of the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral in Bedfordshire: trees planted to form the shape of a built Christian cathedral. As in a built cathedral, this becomes a reflective, contemplative space, somewhere to think what matters.

Do you have any experiences of forest bathing to share, or thoughts or questions? It would be great if you’d like to share in Medley’s Facebook group Thank you https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Opening Doors

Yes, I go outdoors without thinking of creativity. I create without thinking of the outdoors. But when the two interconnect, it reinforces the experience. So Creativity & Wellbeing Week’s 2022 theme, Get Creative Get Outdoors, is a powerful one.

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Creativity and wellbeing combine the inner and the outer all the time. As I try to create, I’m expressing how I experience the world, how I see and feel. Creatvity becomes an outward expression, which is partly why it helps my inner wellbeing. #GetCreativeGetOutdoors mirrors this interplay.

Getting creative can literally get us outdoors, maybe to create then and there, maybe to take photos of a view or plants to draw or paint another time, or to gather garden flowers to use for craft. But it works the other way too. Getting outdoors can spur creativity, as a way to respond to what you see, to capture the moment or to feel part of nature. It’s a way to connect actively, not just observe, and this is what’s so helpful. I do like to walk and “just observe” as well, but I know I experience nature more closely if it gets me creating. This opens up a different perspective on life, and on what I see. I watch birds more closely than I used to do before I painted or drew them regularly: the way they move, the angle of their body or head as they dart onto the ground or look up while they feed or preen. I look at plants more closely as well now, at the shape of their flower petals or at the catkins I saw yesterday, fallen from an alder tree. So I get more absorbed y nature because I want to try to reproduce what I see, in art or craft.

Maybe you enjoy transient art, using natural materials outdoors, like stones or leaves to arrange on the ground. I recently heard about Sean Corcoran in Ireland’s Co. Waterford, who creates sand art using a rake and a stick on the beach, art he photographs before it is lost to the next tide. Or maybe you enjoy setting up an easel outdoors or just sitting on the grass to draw, close to the elements, come rain or shine? I never do more than an occasional quick sketch outdoors, but “the outdoors” follows me home, and spurs me on to create all the time. So in a way nature comes inside.

The #GetCreativeGetOutdoors theme strikes a particular chord with me because integral to Medley, my arts for wellbeing initiative, is an intersectional approach, combining art with nature and music where possible. I like to follow themes across all three: listening to songs or pieces of music, trying art or craft and thinking of ways to connect with nature, all on one theme, as I do in my regular Creative Ideas (mainly used by care homes) and also in other parts of my Medley work. A multi-sensory focus adds other layers. For example, when I ran a Birds A-Z art for wellbeing project last year, participants shared how they enjoyed not only the creativity itself but also discovering new bird species and learning more about nature. They found this absorbed and focused their minds more, and I agreed.

So art and nature feed each other, stimulate each other – and us, literally opening doors. Would you like to share any thoughts or responses? Are you trying to #GetCreativeGetOutdoors? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 or in Medley’s new Facebook group focused on art for mental health, Think Art – https://www.facebook.com/groups/244072321150998

Drawing Together

Maybe never have mental health and wellbeing been so openly shared and discussed as the last two or three years, partly spurred by the pandemic, partly by movements for change. So Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) is in a very different position now – but as mental health issues have soared side by side with greater awareness, it is needed more than ever. The Week’s theme for 2022 is loneliness, with the challenge to “lift someone out of loneliness.”

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What a challenge! It’s positve, hopeful, literally uplifting. It’s all about sharing and drawing together, which is likely to work two ways, enriching life for someone who’s lonely, yes, but also for whoever lifts them out of that loneliness.

I’m wondering just how I might lift someone out of loneliness? Could it be about a one-off chat, hello or smile? These could all help unlock loneliness’s door. But maybe more will be needed. Somehow this implies being there for the long haul – lifting someone clear of loneliness, not just giving them a glimpse of a way out. And obviously it’ll work differently for different people: do they welcome commitment or shy away from it? Do they even have time to connect regularly with others, or do work, illness or family get in the way of this?

Most of all, I’m wondering how to use art, music and/or nature to lift someone out of loneliness? My aim in setting up and running my arts for wellbeing initiative, Medley, is to share art, nature and music to boost wellbeing – and easing loneliness is clearly integral to wellbeing. So how do I, do we all, best make art, music and nature common ground to share to lift others, and each other, out of loneliness? I think diversifying, experimenting, trying different ways, is important – again because we are all so different and respond to different possibilities and opportunities.

What about connecting online, whether through Facebook groups or through group video calls? This may all seem fleeting and limited, but it’s a way to share, to respond, to connect. It’s a way to share an interest, to connect with others’ experiences and it widens up connection away from the local and the everyday to get to know people you’d never get to know any other way. And there’s little or no commitment.

As you experiment with art (for example) with others, it becomes a shared experience and adds other layers, as people go about the artwork differently, with new ideas. This may differ online or in-person, but either way opens up space to connect.

Art – or music or nature or dance or drama or writing – can motivate people to gather, either virtually or in-person, but it may not be the main focus. The opportunity to gather may be the most important. Combining a specific interest with the opportunity to talk, to share, maybe to support each other, becomes a way to enrich life on more than one level. Which is more beneficial, the company, the feeling of being in community, or the actual activity? Does this even matter?

There are so many questions! Do you have thoughts or responses to share? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Creative Constancy

A new month begins, and with this new month begins The Age Of Creativity’s annual festival: sharing creativity with older people. Each year the festival has a specific focus, and this year it’s A Call To Action. This highlights how two years of pandemic have cast a long shadow, and how research has found that 25% of people aged 70 and over are unsure when – or if – their lives will return to normal. This strikes me as such an important focus, at this particular time.

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It’s an opportunity to recognize openly that real issues remain, while highlighting the positive role that creativity plays and will go on playing. Creativity is beneficial for all ages, but older people, who may well have more time, are particularly likely to respond.

While creativity may have changed over the pandemic, with remote initiatives replacing in-person groups, in itself it has remained a constant, and this has to be one of its greatest strengths. The world ,.may have turned on its head, but the music played on, paint and pencils remained. And so they do still, for many a haven in the midst the confusion and uncertainties of “learning to live” with Covid.

So why is the Festival’s focus so important and why now? As restrictions fade into the past and many people do return to pre-Covid lifestyles, it’s an unsettling time. Vaccinations have prevented many hospitalisations and deaths, but actual case rates have lately soared. People who have shielded, who are CEV (clinically extremely vulnerable) still need to be particularly cautious. Moreover, two years of restrictions and lockdowns have left their mark. Many people have lost confidence, so that issues like agoraphobia and social anxiety have worsened, as well as other forms of anxiety and depression.

All these issues face people of any age, but are likely to be most common for older people: partly because of severe Covid’s link to age, but also because the pandemic came at a time when their health may well have been declining anyway. Going out less and taking little exercise, many older people’s mobility has nosedived, which further erodes their confidence. There are other big issues too – transport is one, while long waiting lists for healthcare for chronic conditions, and fear of catching Covid while in the hospital or doctor’s surgery, are others.

For some, it’s all become a”perfect storm”.

So this is why I feel it is so important for the Age Of Creativity Festival to focus on this theme, at a time when it might seem people are trying to pretend Covid has gone away.

I hope that in creativity and wellbeing, remote initiatives will continue (alongside the return to in-person events) in a hybrid approach, so that people still have opportunities to take part from home. My arts for wellbeing initiative, Medley, will continue to run remotely. I hope digital exclusion will be less sidelined. I hope that people will recognize that those who struggle to return to normal life are not “just” nervous but have all kinds of real challenges and no quick fix. And I hope The Age Of Creativity Festival will open up all kinds of opportunities, in turn. Do have a look at the Festival’s website https://festival.ageofcreativity.co.uk/

Do you have thoughts or responses to share? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Up With The Lark

Are you a “night owl” or an “early bird”, “up with the lark”? It’s interesting how these expressions came into the language, relating our body clocks to nature, to day and night, light and dark. It’s no wonder that International Dawn Chorus Day falls at the beginning of May: as dawn gets earlier and earlier every day at this time of year, birds start to sing around 4 or 5 am. And with the dawn chorus at its height, this is also the time of year to try gokotta…

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Are you familiar with gokotta? Many people enjoy birdsong, but in Sweden this has developed to become an actual tradition: getting up early to hear the dawn chorus. Gok is Swedish for cuckoo, so the name derives from listening out for the first cuckoo. It may have developed as just another way to experience nature, to get out and about and enjoy the outdoors. But it’s gone on to become a wellness trend, and again, no wonder. It has it all: calm and quiet, connecting with nature, time out, getting away, being in the moment. It’s an opportunity to set aside whatever might be ahead that day and just be, just listen. Some people find it sets them up for the day, that they then dive into their usual routine feeling calmer or more positive. It’s become a tradition throughout May and on to Midsummer Day, 21 June.

Many of us relate and respond more to nature in spring than at any other time of year. New growth, buds and blossoms, warmth and sunshine (hopefully) – and birdsong.

It’s easy to think, however, that gokotta isn’t for us. It might only sound worth trying if you’re in some beautiful Swedish forest, away from it all, surrounded by birdsong. But there’s no need to go anywhere remote. Even in urban areas there’s birdsong to be heard, sometimes louder than in the countryside as it’s been found that birds sing more loudly to be heard over the traffic. Or you might think gokotta isn’t for the faint-hearted: yet it’s actually all about enjoyment. Gokotta tradition recommends you make a cup of coffee or tea to take outside with you, and find somewhere comfotable to sit while you listen. This isn’t about shivering in the rain, or striding off on a six mile walk at dawn. It’s being present, being in the moment. You could even try listening indoors, maybe through an open window.

And birds do sing all day, even at dusk – so if dawn really isn’t possible, you could try making a habit of settling down to listen at another time of day. You could also listen to recorded birdsong online if it’s impossible to hear any birds where you are, or so you get to hear more of a variety of different species’ songs. Just search “recorded nightingale song” – or any other species – online and see what you find. And if you do hear birdsong outdoors, try to record some to capture the moment. Try making listening to birdsong a regular part of your routine at this time of year – or just try it on International Dawn Chorus Day itself.

There are different ways to experiment with gokotta, but the essence is experiencing birdsong, ideally starting the day by absorbing nature’s sounds.

Do you enjoy listening to birdsong? Are you going to try gokotta? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Play It Again

Listening to Classic FM’s Hall Of Fame countdown over the Easter weekend, I thought how music has such different impacts on us. Familiarity, musical memory, is important – but so too is novelty, hearing new music. Maybe balancing the two is most beneficial for wellbeing? And now comes UK Music’s The Power Of Music report, published yesterday, highlighting the impacts music has on a range of issues from depression to dementia. One of its recommendations is for health and care staff to train in sharing music with patients: signalling just how important it can be.

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Every year Classic FM’s Hall of Fame is an opportunity for listeners to choose their three best loved pieces of classical music, then hear the top 300 counted down. Year upon year, some pieces climb higher in the poll, while others fall. That unpredictability draws listeners in. The top 10 sees some winners and losers each year (no Mozart this year, which is unusual) but at the very top of the chart Raph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending reigns supreme at No 1 almost every year. Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 is pretty well its only rival.

So why is familiarity so important to us when we listen to music? Why do we respond more to music we know? Why do so many people choose one particular piece year upon year in the Hall of Fame?

Over time, as I hear a piece of music or a song again and again, it becomes familiar so that I recognise it more quickly, knowing where it’s going, remembering particular chords, motifs or harmonies before I hear them. With a song, I might remember some of the lyrics, maybe the chorus or refrain. Instead of wondering what the song’s about or what the piece of music will be like, I focus and respond more quickly.

Dementia research has highlighted how helpful musical memory can be. It’s usually formed during what are known as the “memory bump” years (before we hit 30). Hearing music from our youth can revive memory in later life, even in people who have dementia. As musical memory is one of the last forms of memory to be lost to dementia, this can be a very rare and precious way to engage people. Musical memory is also striking because we associate music with other memories: events and times when we remember hearing that piece or song, maybe for the first time. Maybe happy times, maybe sad, but by linking to another memory, the music becomes more deeply rooted and becomes part of our own story.

But I do think that hearing new music (new to us, or new altogether) is important as well – discovering the unknown, which is a great stimulus. Sometimes just hearing one new piece or song could unlock an entire new genre you might never have enjoyed before, or a new singer or composer. Classic FM’s recent series From Couch To Opera House In 7 Weeks, presented by Jennifer Saunders, has been a chance to get to know opera, a genre unfamiliar to many of us. And musical likes and dislikes change over time, so we might find particular music more calming or exciting now than we used to. What matters is going on experiencing music in all different ways. Another of UK Music’s The Power Of Music report’s recommendations is for older people to learn to play an instrument, which can help cognition. The music plays on…

What do you think? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Look, Listen And Learn?

Watching and hearing birds has to be one of the most calming ways to experience nature. So many of us respond to birdsong or to seeing birds fly. And there are all different ways to enjoy this: birdwatching, birding or twitching. Which might most improve wellbeing?

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Birdwatching is the most common. It’s one of the traditional hobbies which boomed during lockdown, particularly among Generation Z (16- 29) but across all ages. Birding ( a more committed approach, watching and waiting) and twitching (searching out rare species) may be less common but are life-enhancing.

Most of us simply drift into everyday birdwatching as more practicable. It can be relaxing and a great way to live in the moment. I’m not usually a spontaneous person, I like to plan. But I do enjoy seeing birds spontaneously – suddenly spotting a robin on a gate, or hearing rooks calling high in the trees as they move from rookery to rookery – where will they be today? This way I can get a sudden glimpse of nature in the everyday, so it feels immediate. I recently heard of a GP surgery which has bird feeders outside the waiting room windows, to calm patients as they wait for an appointment, watching the birds. I think I might feel pressured by birding or twitching, whereas this is more like letting go and just seeing what happens.

But it might seem less interesting. You might soon tire of seeing just a few species over and over again, whereas watching regularly or searching further afield could become exciting. Mental stimulus helps wellbeing and cognition, so birding and twitching could contribute to this by firing people’s imaginations. They could also absorb our minds more.

Birding can be all about learning through observation, and many birders record and note bird behaviours, flight, plumage or song. It’s about going deeper, taking nature connection to another level, so instead of glancing at a bird, you stop and observe, and gain more.

Challenge is integral to birding and twitching alike. If you succeed and get a great sighting of a rare or familiar species, there’s a real high, a great adrenaline rush. And birding and twitching create purpose – there’s always a goal, seeing a particular species, or trying to exceed a previous total for sightings, which motivates people to spend more time in nature, with all its many benefits.

They can give life real variety, never knowing what species you might find next. But there are also barriers to participation. Equipment like binoculars and telescopes can be expensive. Not many people have spare time to sit for hours in a hide, or to head off at a moment’s notice and travel quite a distance to see a rare species which has been reported somewhere. So it could become a frustrating hobby if you are limited by other commitments or travel issues. Twitching can be stressful, with time pressure not to miss an opportunity overshadowing the actual enjoyment. It can also set twitchers against each other as they vie for the most or best sightings.

All three ways of watching birds add another layer and can help us zone out and be mindful, one way or another. Maybe combining elements of all three could be the ideal. What do you think? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Colouring Calm

With National Stress Awareness Month starting tomorrow, I thought I’d focus here on colouring: a way many people ease stress creatively. Awareness of stress has surged, particularly during the pandemic, so awareness of ways of reducing stress, or setting cares aside for a while, is equally important now.

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And just as stress awareness has grown, so too has colouring. I remember thinking four or five years ago how colouring was booming when I saw some colouring sheets on a table in my local library for people to enjoy together or alone. And now it’s everywhere.

Colouring is a very flexible art form. Some people colour quickly, maybe smaller images. Others enjoy experimenting with more complex techniques, such as layering shades of colour using lots of colouring pencils. Colouring has moved on a long way over the years. It used to be mainly a children’s activity and there was usually a limited range of colouring books and styles to try. Now the possibilities seem endless. As adults have got into colouring, there’s been an explosion of different books and themes. There’s botanical art to colour, fantasy scenes and images from films or novels. Some colouring books tell a story as they go, so that you illustrate a narrative as it unfolds, and some form entire series of books. Then there’s a whole variety of different art media to use, colouring pencils, crayons, pastels, paints and colour pens.

Mindful colouring has become helpful to many people. Any art can be mindful. There’s something about focusing your attention on paper and pencil, or canvas and brush, or clay, or wool, that closes out the pressures that dog us and opens up a space away. For a time, it’s all that matters. But colouring has become particularly known as a mindful activity, a way to calm down and ground yourself. Is this because it’s specific, focused on colours and shades? Is it because it seems less of a hurdle to get started if the outline image is there for you to plunge in?

Colouring can be empowering, opening up art to people who don’t like drawing or find it too difficult to be enjoyable. With an outline there before you, you can concentrate on transforming it with colour. I’m actually the opposite. I really enjoy drawing, and find it far easier than painting with colour, for example. But I can still see how colouring is inviting. Then there are people who used to draw and paint but now struggle to visualize an image or to physically draw. Maybe they have some sight loss, or dementia, or find their motor skills have declined so that they can’t hold a pencil to draw exact lines anymore.

But colouring is absolutely an artform in itself: really skilful, it demands full attention and concentration, and it creates strong and beautiful images. You can follow the colours suggested by example images – or you can let your imagination fly and use any colour at all, placing your own stamp on the picture. As hand and eye work together, colour becomes image.And the person colouring can grow calm.

Do you enjoy colouring and find it eases stress? It would be great if you would like to share any thoughts on colouring – or any images! – in my Facebook group which explores how art can help mental health, Think Art (1) Think Art | Facebook Thank you!

Music In The Dark

Hearing about the concert to be held for Ukraine led me on to think how music can be not only a response to troubled times (as here) but can also itself be born out of troubles, inspired by pain, forged through struggle. This is so true across musical genres and styles, and across time and place. So this is less about how music can be used to respond, and more about where music can come from in the first place.

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Music can emerge from personal pain. So many songs openly focus on pain and heartbreak, and may or may not draw on lived experience. Many do express actual memory or present struggle. This might most commonly be the breakdown of a relationship – but could also be illness, bereavement or depression. And music can also become a mask, as many musicians will have hidden troubles. One way or another, a long line of musicians have sung, played or composed while struggling in different ways. Blues singer Bessie Smith’s personal life was troubled, while jazz musician Charlie Parker experienced long periods of addiction and mental health issues. Yet these two performers alone still have a major legacy.

One question I’m going to ask is which comes first, the music or the pain? It’s a bitter irony that music – so liberating and enriching – can also ruin lives. Fame can lead to unbearable pressures. The opposite – failure or a slow journey to fame – can also be painful. The music world’s party scene can lead to substance misuse, addiction and extreme behaviours. These experiences might seem to fuel music making for a time, but also limit productivity, and end lives. Some of Amy Winehouse’s great songs were born out of emotional pain, but addiction gradually tightened its hold.

And music can also emerge from shared pain, shared experience: maybe traditional music like South Africa’s isicathamiya. These were songs sung by black miners travelling far away from home to work in coal mines, songs that expressed all they endured. Isicathamiya has become widely known more recently through the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, which has its roots in this tradition.

Music that is inspired by shared trauma can become, in time, a way to look back, to commemorate and to lament. You could think of pieces like John Williams’ film score for Schindler’s List, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, or Karl Jenkins’ recent music to commemorate the Aberfan disaster.

Sometimes, of course, pain does not allow music making. It may be too deep for any music to come. Led Zeppelin withdrew from performing in 1977 when Robert Plant was bereaved – and three years later disbanded altogether when drummer John Bonham died suddenly. Sometimes silence says more.

Yet sometimes music won’t be silenced. Franz Schubert died at the age of 31. For the last six years of hid brief life he was seriously ill and living in poverty. But he went on composing, and some of his most famous music was created during those years, such as his Winterreise. Would he have composed like this if he’d been healthy and wealthy? Maybe and maybe not.

Do you have other examples or thoughts you’d like to share? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Rewild Ourselves?

Can rewilding boost mental health and wellbeing? Might it enable connecting with nature at a different level and so reinforce the already proven benefits of nature? Can rewilding revive and restore not only the natural world but also ourselves? I thought World Rewilding Day, which falls this week, was an opportunity to ask these questions, and more.

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Rewilding has a firm focus on nature – biodiversity, species recovery, habitat restoration, sometimes the reintroduction of locally extinct species. But most rewilding initiatives also draw in people, knowing that people are more likely to support rewilding if they engage with what’s going on, and knowing too the clear positive impacts for people and communities. When we hear so many gloomy headlines about the climate and nature emergency, rewilding in action can be inspiring, hopeful and reassuring. And even without considering the wider picture, simply experiencing a wild landscape, its sights and sounds, can be calming and liberating.

But rewilding throws up many questions. Some doubt its authenticity. Is it truly possible to return a landscape to a form of wilderness? Or are we “restoring” wildness which may never have existed? Then there are questions about people’s experiences of rewilding. Some people come to life in wild landscapes, but others feel uneasy, and the words “wildness” and “wilderness” have a negative element to them. Opportunities to experience rewilding for ourselves will be limited by disposable income and spare time to travel to usually remote locations. Some people even feel that rewilding shuts them out, by implying that human impacts on nature have to be negative, and that the land should be left to itself. It could then separate people and nature further.

Diverse as rewilding is, I thought I’d look at one particular example, a trailblazer in the UK – Wild Ennerdale, now in its 20th year, situated on the western edge of the Lake District. Gone now are many of the conifers planted during the 20th century, replaced by native deciduous trees; heathland and bog has been restored; and black Galloway cattle graze parts of the area, enhancing biodiversity. Many roads and fences have been removed. People are encouraged to experience Ennerdale through walking and events, and taking part in restoration tasks.

So there’s no doubt that rewilding is exciting and can transform the land. It can become a haven for people as well as wildlife, a world away from urban sprawl or tamed countryside. Even if you rarely get to a rewilded area yourself, just knowing that wilderness is out there fires our imaginations. And it is already diversifying, and maybe it can and will reach many more places and settings, on a smaller and more everyday scale. Can it come to a road, a field, a patch of disused land near you? If rewilding is to rewild our minds as well as our land, could it become less extreme, more everyday? Could it become more grassroots, community-run in more places rather than a complex initiative requiring sustained cooperation by large landowners? Rewilding remote glens and moors, but also local patches of ground, could open up far more opportunities to interact with wildness – so that nature isn’t just “out there” but close by – restoring nature and ourselves.

Have you seen rewilding in action? Do you have thoughts or ideas? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Thoughts On Paper

There’s one specific way to combine art and wellbeing which stands out, and that is bullet journaling. No, there are no limits to the diverse ways we can all experiment with art and creativity to boost our wellbeing, and all do help. Bullet journaling stands out simply because it focuses on how we think and feel, and records and expresses this in a direct but practical way, through word and image. It’s a quick form of journaling, so it can become a regular part of your routine, requiring little spare time.

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Integral to any journaling for wellbeing is expressing yourself. Issues like overthinking, which so fuel anxiety and depression, can be eased by journaling. By allowing you to commit your thoughts to paper, rather than letting them fester in your head, it can be liberating and can also help you clear your mind. Getting those thoughts outside, onto paper, can help you weigh them up, think them through, sometimes think what to do about them as well.

But journaling can seem daunting. Looking at blank journal pages, the thought of covering them with a long entry every day, a muddle of thoughts and fears maybe, could seem a hurdle in itself. So this is why many people turn to bullet journaling. It’s briefer, more pictorial and colourful, and more practicable. Obviously a bullet journal can take whatever form you like, but many have common features. People use mood trackers – drawing colour circles or shapes to represent and record mood from one day to another, or using a symbol instead, like a flower or a bird. Many people divide up a bullet journal by month, and have a to-do list for that month, a goal or a particular focus. Colour’s really important – use colour pens to head your pages, divide the journal into sections, or to colour in page backgrounds. It all makes the “bujo” as they’re known more attractive.

What I feel is also important is that the bullet journal need not be an endless record of moods and fears. It needs to be a positive space too, where possible, to balance out thoughts. So I like the idea of writing out and illustrating positive sayings – maybe motivational sayings you see online, or quotes from books or song lyrics. Illustrate them with a colourful border or with a drawing inspired by the saying. You could also try scrapbooking, sticking into your journal cuttings from magazines or printouts of nature photos maybe. This way a bullet journal can become a little treasury of positive sights and thoughts, as well as a way to explore the negative.

Some people might run a mile from bullet journaling – fearing it would itself open up a flood of emotions, or mire them deeper in obsessing over moods and feelings. But journaling could also be a way to set those obsessive patterns aside for a time, expressed on paper and laid aside. Bullet journaling can also be a constant when other people aren’t always on hand to talk and support. And if people are seeing a counsellor or therapist, journaling can be a place to write down and record what the therapist says or to remember questions to ask another time.

Bullet journaling is a theme I’m exploring from time to time in my new Facebook group, Think Art, a group focusing on how art can help mental health. It would be great if you’d like to join the group (1) Think Art | Facebook Thank you!