On Saturday, July 16th, the Bristol Counselling and Psychotherapy team embarked on a day of team-building and wellness. Coinciding with the rising temperatures and sunny days, our counsellors and administrative staff travelled across Bristol to enjoy a variety of activities, each one selected not only for the exciting and shared experience it might offer but also for its restorative mental health benefits.
Our first activity took us to Westbury Wildlife Park Foundation, located on the northern outskirts of Bristol, an immersive and wild community space dedicated to the local ecology. It only took a few steps into the park before we each felt entirely removed from any semblance of urban culture, becoming quickly immersed among the towering elder trees. We were welcomed by our host and yoga instructor, Krista, who led us through the foliage to a small open cabin, beneath which we were to be guided through a session of Wild Yoga.
The day’s temperature had not yet reached its highest point and a gentle breeze passed between us. Krista was an immediately calming presence, supporting us to loosen our bodies of tension and quieten our minds, then leading us through each exercise.
The experience was entirely wonderful, as each of us left behind the pace and stressors of our lives to find respite in nature. Between each gentle movement, our focussed grasped only on the shuffling leaves and aromatic foliage, as well as, occasionally, the chorus of playful birds. It was such a soothing ceremony and landscape that one of our team members even found themselves lulled into sleep!
As we each stepped away from our individual yoga mats, the most shared sentiment was that time seemed to have slowed down. There had, it seemed, been a shared experience whereby each individual felt as though the session had lasted far longer than they anticipated, that they had slowed down entirely. This dilation of time is, as our group discovered, a frequent occurrence for those participating in meditative activities, whereby individuals experience minutes moving faster or slower than usual.
The experience of wild yoga was particularly interesting for each of us because we were prepared for the session to be relaxing and restorative, knowing the reputation of yoga and its benefits. However, fewer of us expected the environment to have made such a significant impact.
It had been the gateway into nature, having our senses distracted only by the scents, sights, and sounds of the wild, that had elevated our experience, leading us each to achieve peacefulness, as well as respect not only for our surroundings but for ourselves. Nature, it was immediately clear, elevated our joy and calmness.
There have been a number of studies that investigate and discuss the relationship between nature and mental health, and the results outline not only the certainty of improved wellbeing but also the numerous ways in which our health can be improved. Mind, for example, attributes time being spent within green spaces as improving mood, reducing anger, improving confidence, as well as also encouraging a community and social mindset. All of which sit beside the physical benefits that accompany such wellness.
Our team left WWPF with the feeling that the space they have created, a naturally diverse and welcoming environment, is one that not only benefits Bristol’s ecology and community but one of remedial wealth, improving the wellbeing of each individual who spends time within.
The day, however, did not end there for the Bristol Counselling and Psychotherapy team and our next adventure was to try stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), which we discuss in another blog post, found here.