19 June 2023

From a stroll through a town park to a day spent exploring Wirral’s fantastic coastline and countryside, getting outside and up close to nature has been linked to a host of major health and well-being benefits, including improved personal well-being, lowering stress, improved mood, reduced risk and impacts from psychiatric disorders and even empathy and cooperation with others.

It is for these very reasons that YMCA Wirral encourages and engages its service users to take part in our regular waterway’s activity days on our superb 65’ narrowboat Potential, on the Trent and Mersey Canal in Cheshire.

Spending time on our amazing peaceful and tranquil waterways and their surrounding green spaces, brings nature right into our participants day, benefiting both peoples mental and physical wellbeing.

Talking to our service users at the end of trips, we hear time and time again the same comments about what they got out of their day or the impact it made on them:

  • “Despite being in a wheelchair I felt included in a brilliant activity and loved getting afloat – it is always amazing out on the boat I love it”
  • “I felt it improved how I felt and my mood”
  • “It reduced my anxiety and stress and feelings”
  • “Getting away for the day helped me feel more relaxed”
  • “It helped me do something worth-while for once and I loved it!”
  • “I feel it made me do things and that must have improved my physical health”
  • “Improved my confidence and self-esteem”
  • “It helped my feelings of loneliness”
  • “I felt really close to the wildlife and to nature – things I never see in the town”

We work closely with the Canal and River Trust (https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/) and follow their guidance and suggestions of how to get the most out of our fantastic waterways and rivers.  The Canal and River Trust have a highly informative website and excellent information, which includes an informative well-being pack which can be accessed at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/refresh/media/thumbnail/43627-water-and-wellbeing-pack.pdf

As the charity that looks after over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, they work hard to encourage everyone to enjoy these amazing spaces, where you can get away from the noise, pressure and pollution of everyday life and escape into a peaceful, relaxing, historic environment packed with amazing wildlife, plants and fauna.

Research has found that spending time in and around the waterways and nature, helps with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Research into ecotherapy (a treatment which involves taking part in activities outdoors in nature) has demonstrated it helps with mild to moderate depression.

Being outside in natural light can help people who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year.  And a number of our boat trip visitors tell us that getting afloat and close to nature has helped them with many other types of mental health problems.