Green walking: patient and carer perspectives

Studies of people’s experiences of inpatient mental health services have identified the importance of high-quality relationships with staff, reducing violence and the need for restraint, and providing meaningful activity as part of holistic care. Green walking can contribute positively to all of these.

‘Patients identified the importance of holistic care encompassing medical, psychological and occupational care. However, the review revealed that medical approaches were often the dominant treatment method during their inpatient stay. Rose (2001) also highlighted the paucity of activities and talking therapies in the inpatient environment.’ (Wood and Alsawy, 2016)

‘Patients suggested that inactivity slowed the in-patient care pathway, reduced self efficacy, exacerbated symptoms and was related to aggression and violence on the ward.’ (Staniszewska et al, 2019)

Observations and feedback from the Green Beacon sites corroborate published findings that patients enjoy walks and identify them as helpful in their recovery. 


‘I really enjoyed that’

‘I like being out, I walk around my local park when at home’ 

‘Enjoyed that, getting off the ward and getting fresh air’

– Patients at Green Beacon sites

Walking together in nature offers a space for relationships with staff to develop. Both patients and staff at the Green Beacon sites found that walks were a good time to talk, with less of the healthcare professional-patient divide. In several cases, it was while on a walk that patients opened up for the first time. 

‘I really enjoy spending time with staff and peers away from the ward as it’s good to be able to talk about random things and not things to do with the ward or our illnesses.’ - Patient at Green Beacon site

Green walking, through strengthened relationships with staff, together with the calming effects of physical activity and time spent in natural spaces, can help people to feel supported, relieve anxiety and reduce the need for restraint.

‘One of the service users is quite chaotic on the ward and more challenging. They seemed to calm down quite a lot being off the ward and spoke of their garden at home. It also helped in building a therapeutic relationship with this individual.’ – Clinical walk leader, Norfolk

In addition, whether simply walking, engaging in conversation, observing wildlife or sketching the view, green walking can be a meaningful activity, which connects people to their life before the crisis and, possibly, to an imagined future. 

‘I loved it. Being in the green space and getting fresh air, being in nature is so grounding. I’m a very spiritual person and I need those connections.’

‘It’s good to have something to do with my time, what other exercise can I do?’

‘They’re my favourite trees, reminds me of a park I used to go to.’

– Patients at Green Beacon sites


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