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National Volunteer Week: Getting a prescription to benefit nature and ourselves

By Contributor
April 12th, 2019

We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the negative effects of stress. With the pace of the world today, stress is a familiar companion for many of us.

Though stress is a normal physical reaction, it can have negative effects on your health, especially when it lasts for long periods of time. Whether its fatigue, anxiety, irritability or social isolation, stress symptoms can affect your body, thoughts, feelings and overall well-being.

In a world where information comes at us from every direction, expectations are high that we’ll be able to keep up. Yet too often, we’re left feeling like we have no breathing space. So how do we manage stress in a modern world?

Cue the birdsong, babbling brook and soft scent of pine trees.

Nature may not have the ability to solve all of our problems, but the benefits of getting outside cannot be denied. A growing body of evidence shows that spending time outside can reduce stress, improve blood pressure, reduce anxiety and support our overall physical health. When you throw volunteering into the mix, the benefits increase — not just for ourselves but for nature too.

That’s why the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is giving Canadians a prescription to be outdoors.  We are encouraging people to take a break from technology, phones and screens and be “healthy by nature”.  We are doing so by inviting folks to contribute to hands-on conservation work through our Conservation Volunteers program.

Studies have shown that volunteering can help you feel more socially connected and that using your skills and talents in support of a cause can improve your self-esteem. In one 2013 health and volunteering study conducted by UnitedHealth Group, 96% of participants said volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life.

NCC’s Conservation Volunteers program, which is in its 12thyear, brings people from all walks of life together in support of a shared cause. With a wealth of volunteer events taking place in all 10 provinces throughout the year, we are showing that we are not only committed to land conservation but also to connecting people to that land and fostering a love of nature.

The personal experiences we have with nature help us form a lifelong connection to the environment. These events provide hands-on opportunities for people of all ages and fitness levels to get out and contribute to nature’s health, while reaping the personal mental, physical and social benefits of being outside.

There are many activities across the country where people can make a difference. From helping plant trees, remove invasive species, make hiking trails, carry out bird counts and species inventories, cleaning up plastics and marine debris at a shoreline cleanup, improving fence line visibility for endangered birds, or planting native wildflowers as part of local restoration efforts. The Nature Conservancy of Canada offers many opportunities to get outside, get (or stay) healthy and give back to nature this year. In the process, you might just find the breathing space you need.

To learn more, visit   As a national charity, our program has been made possible with the support of Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life.

(Kailey Setter is the national manager of conservation engagement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada).


Categories: EducationOp/Ed


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