Outdoor Wellbeing for Teenagers and Adults

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Logo: AndBreathe

We all have five basic needs: Survival, Belonging, Power/Self-worth, Freedom and Fun. Currently, in day to day life, these needs can be forgotten, disregarded and ignored. ‘Outdoor Wellbeing for Teenagers’ aims to nurture the five basic needs:

Building dens (Gillian Watt)
Building dens (Gillian Watt)

Survival – Participants work together and alone to build dens, erect tarpaulins, gather materials to make a fire, then cook/bake over the fire.

Belonging – The ethos is always be inclusive. The aim is to nurture a sense of belonging for everyone taking part. That means different things for different people.

Power/Self-worth – It is hoped that all participants experience a sense of achievement, accomplishment, pride, importance and an outer sense of being heard and respected and feeling competent and attaining recognition. Participants have a say in the planning of sessions, so that the activities are relevant.

Freedom – Freedom is the need for independence and autonomy; the ability to make choices, to create, to explore, and to express oneself freely; to have enough space, to move around and to feel unrestricted in determining choices and free will. Sessions also encourage and support participants to move freely and to create and share independent thoughts.

Fun – We all need fun! Fun includes experiencing enjoyment, laughter, relaxation and learning.

Logo: Wellbeing with Agnes

Gillian (AndBreathe) teams up with Agnes (Wellbeing with Agnes) for these outdoor sessions. Our aim is to actively promote an environment where adults and children have an opportunity to feel that their five basic needs are being met, because if these needs are not being met, we can all ‘behave’ in a way that is perhaps not helpful. Gillian is a trained Forest School leader, an educator and wellbeing facilitator and Agnes is a qualified mental health nurse and mindfulness facilitator.

‘The Outdoor Wellbeing for Teenagers’ sessions are based on the principles of Forest School, including the aim of encouraging and supporting mental health and wellbeing in teenagers. Within the sessions, we share mental wellbeing tools and offer time to discuss mental health, either as a group or individually. There are also unprompted discussions shared amongst the teenagers about their mental health. These conversations can be supported by the leaders, if necessary. In general, we all feel more relaxed in the outdoors and this plays a big part in these sessions. There are many examples of the positive impact of these sessions, including one teenager who had been out of school for eighteen months and is now back in school full time. Another had problems sleeping and is now sleeping much better.

Creating environmental art (Gillian Watt)
Creating environmental art (Gillian Watt)

We offer similar sessions for adults. I recognised the possible benefit of these sessions for adults after attending a local whittling session. I was asked what had drawn me to the whittling session and I explained that I planned to develop mental health sessions in the outdoors and wanted to improve my whittling skills, in order to be more skilled when assisting others. This sparked an unprompted conversation about mental health amongst the group. The leader shared later that these people had been attending for some time but had never shared in this way before and she could see how beneficial it had been for them.

There are many studies sharing the benefits of the outdoors on our mental health, including the study on ‘Forest Bathing’ in Japan.

We all recognise how beneficial the outdoors is for our physical and mental wellbeing. The evidence is in and this places us all in a perfect position to encourage future generations to appreciate and understand the benefits of the outdoors.

Find out more at or on facebook @andbreathe123

First published in CJS Focus on Environmental Education & Outdoor Activities in association with the Countryside Education Trust on 11 May 2020. Read the full issue here

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Posted On: 05/05/2020

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