• Rewilding the land is encouraged as it promotes biodiversity and therefore the health of the land and the planet

  • Andrew Millham suggests that we can seek to rewild our minds, too, with time spent outdoors

Rewilding is when you let nature take its course and allow wildlife to return to a place it once inhabited. In the natural world, things often happen slowly and take many years to develop. Grass grows, trees sway in the wind and water laps at the shore in a rhythmic and soothingly repetitive pattern. For many years, humans were in tune with this slower pace of life – especially since many people tended the land for a living. However, in today's technological age, many people are out of touch with wildlife. I have experienced first-hand that the excessive use of technology can be extremely stressful, reducing attention spans and dampening moods. Having unlimited information at the touch of a button is exhausting. We need to rewild our minds. A short walk through the woods, or whatever green space is available to you, is all that is needed to reconnect with the wilder side of life and slow down the overwhelming tempo of a particularly stressful day.

Walking through a quiet and natural landscape is calming. Your mind can focus on the wonders surrounding you. It is freeing to realise that no matter how you feel, the trees will continue to grow, the tides will still turn, and the leaves will still change colour with the seasons. There is little we can do about this. Therefore, getting out into a natural setting allows you to relinquish control. It is a fantastic reminder that we are all part of something much larger that ourselves, this can give young and old an invaluable perspective. Even in our own gardens it can be tempting to strive for straight edges and neat borders. However, we know that messy gardens with wildflowers strewn about promote biodiversity and healthier ecosystems. We cannot control nature, and we should not try to.

There is an old idea called 'biophilia' which suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature. This is unsurprising since we evolved alongside nature – it is deeply rooted within us. A lack of wildlife and natural landscapes in our lives can lead to depression and anxiety. Since 2018, doctors in Scotland have been prescribing natural activities like rambling and birdwatching to patients suffering with high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, heart disease and stress. This is a very positive step and shows that – in some cases – nature can be stronger than a pill.

Charities like the Cameron Bespolka Trust ( https://www.cameronbespolka.com/) are important because they aim to engage young people with wildlife. I am a young ambassador for the trust and have seen first-hand the truth behind their slogan ‘children need nature, and nature needs children’. Nature-loving children grow into nature-loving adults, and this does wonders for their mental health. Being shown the wonders of the natural world from a young age is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to a child. This is also excellent for nature because if people value the environment for its mental health benefits, they will be more likely to protect it.

Schemes that bring young people from urban areas into the countryside are also extremely valuable. It gives those who otherwise may not have had the opportunity a chance to experience the inexhaustible wonders of the natural world. ‘Care Farms’ are one such scheme. These take underprivileged young people from cities to farms and gives them hands on experiences with farm animals. The feeling of responsibility and achievement gained is invaluable and can change lives.

Just like rewilding a garden. Setting aside at least 15-minutes a day to go outside is vital for mental wellbeing. Through my work with the Cameron Bespolka Trust and Essex Wildlife Trust, it has been a pleasure to help to rewild young people’s minds. Whilst education is important, we were not built to sit in classrooms for six hours a day. Children need a wild space to relax and play. Here is a nature poem that I wrote, displaying one of my favourite birds – the kingfisher – and the calming effect of nature:


Down by the green grove

the old ploughman is walking -

The water is cold on the broads.

Rising roach and shadowed ripples

pluck at nature’s complex chords.

The shaded in, graphitic sky,

Burns off to host a low-sunned scene.

In waiting for regal engagements

from kingfisher and bittern queen.

The air has warmed by 10 o’ clock,

And sun shines golden off sheaths of wheat.

The wind that shakes the crops whistles -

Dulled by inundated peat.

The best view is among the furrows,

The ploughman brings a stool to unfold,

To watch the kingfisher’s work at leisure –

Prussian blues and princely gold.

As he watches, the ploughman sings,

Shepherds Arise, then Spencer the Rover,

Colours mix to browny-greens,

As the Kingfishers manoeuvre

for minnows.

When nature slows her morning rush,

The ploughman rises and doffs his cap.

A thank you for the morning show,

And the Kingfishers that call him back.

So remember, next time you go outside, look up, take a deep breath and relax. Focus on the small things, like how the sun is dappled by swaying branches and glimmers in muddy puddles. Rewild your mind.

Further reading

How to connect with the nature around you

6 ways wild swimming can boost mental health

Finding hope in nature in the face of Covid-19

Therapeutic landscapes: how natural environments boost wellbeing

Why is being outside so good for mental wellbeing?