Why it’s good for your wellbeing in the woods

November 8, 2022

YDMT’s pilot Woodland Wellbeing project is bringing the wonders of the woods to young people who need it most.

Connecting with nature provides many of the opportunities that young people need to develop life skills – confidence, self-esteem, self-understanding, building relationships, a sense of belonging and hope for the future (University of Derby).

Through our own work we know that young people need longer term engagement to get the greatest benefits. That’s particularly true for young people experiencing disadvantage or struggling in mainstream education.

Woodland wellbeing -hammocks

Find yourself in the forest

Over the last year YDMT’s pilot Woodland Wellbeing project has engaged groups of young people in woodland-based activities that boost their wellbeing, improve self-confidence, and develop other skills that help improve their life chances.

33 young people aged 11-16 have been involved in activities over 6 to 12 weeks. That includes teenagers struggling in mainstream education, or at risk of being excluded, as well as young people who have already dropped out of education.

The sessions have been led by the young people themselves and, depending on their interests, have included everything from green woodworking, bushcraft, and planting orchards to creating food gardens and natural crafts. We’ve also had time for mindfulness, swinging in hammocks, and fire-lighting!

“I can’t thank you enough for helping me to be part of these sessions.

Honestly, they have been incredible. Seeing nature, just being outdoors, it makes me feel so much happier.

I can find things quite hard at home sometimes and being out here really helps. I don’t have to think about anything.”

Woodland wellbeing -natural crafts

Does Woodland Wellbeing work?

We looked at how our young participant’s confidence, self-esteem, self-understanding, nature connectedness and hope for the future changed across their Woodland Wellbeing sessions.

These findings, supported by our own observations and comments from the young people themselves, showed that the sessions had a positive impact across the board on the young people taking part. The benefits were particularly striking in confidence levels and mental health and general wellbeing.

“It’s nice to have the chance to talk and to be outside. I love the nice trees, the wind…experiencing all of nature.

It has helped getting my bad thoughts away… the activities, using my hands. I’ve been able to try new things.

I’ve made new friends. I didn’t have many friends in primary school, and I thought it was because I didn’t have any talent. It’s been nice to have the chance to develop that talent.”

Woodland wellbeing -young people

The future

As the climate and biodiversity crises show – we need to do more to re-build the relationship between people and nature.

Simple woodland activities that connect young people with nature can help young people to build the self-confidence and skills to improve their life chances.

By bringing opportunities to small groups of young people through our Woodland Wellbeing project we hope to bridge a gap in services that help the young people who need it most, but there is lots more to be done.

“I look forward to Tuesday afternoons so much. I can be really stressed or anxious in the morning, but I know when I get out here that I will feel calm.

It’s hard to explain but I just feel free in my own skin. I really enjoy it and I’m really grateful for the chance to be out here.”

Find out more about how we work with young people.