Mental Wellbeing at the School of Law and Social Justice - The importance of exposure to nature

Posted on: 17 May 2021 by Anna Vowles in Blog

Official Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 banner
Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 official banner

Last week (10th-16th May) marked Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 and University of Liverpool Wellbeing Week. This year there was a focus on nature and the benefits of spending time outdoors. We spoke with our School's Head of Operations, Anna Vowles, to discuss the world opening up again, welcoming staff and students back in due course and how she hopes the new building will encourage them to better balance study/work and mental wellbeing.

After a strange, stressful year with a lot of time spent indoors, Mental Health Foundation UK are inspiring us to get outdoors and #ConnectWithNature. Time in nature is not only linked to stress reduction, but exposure to the outdoors is also proven to boost productivity and reduce feelings of isolation.

With the world slowly opening up again, we are looking forward to welcoming students and staff back to the School of Law and Social Justice in due course. However, heading back to campus does not have to mean limiting your time spent connecting with nature. The new home of the School of Law and Social Justice has lots of its own connections with nature. As well as providing students and staff with a high quality, spacious, bright workspace, it promotes connections with nature in its materials and style, as well as promoting collaborative working and ensuring accessibility to all.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, a huge project was commissioned to transform the School. The project combines state-of-the-art facilities with an appreciation of the effect of nature on mental wellbeing to provide a hugely improved, connected and healthy working environment.

picture of the new foyer with students socialising

The building utilises large windows, providing bright workspaces and hosts lots of greenery, featuring natural materials like wood. (Image taken February 2020)

The facilities include:

  • A large central open atrium area with front and rear access, including a reception area, café and large social space/circulation area.
  • Academic offices for 120+ staff, collaboration spaces, PC suites, law clinic and postgraduate research suites.
  • A ground floor events/meeting space which can accommodate 100+ persons.
  • A fifth-floor accessible external terrace area.
  • A link bridge connecting the two sides of the building through the heart of the atrium.
  • The building is also only a short walk to Abercromby Square gardens - a perfect spot for taking some time out of the working day to relax and reconnect with nature and with friends.

Importantly, the project also enhanced the public realm works around the building, with added greenery and outdoor seating and meeting space in areas such as Rendall Courtyard, Eleanor Rathbone Green and the rear of Abercromby terrace.

We sat down with our School’s Head of Operations, Anna Vowles, to chat about the building and how she hopes it will encourage students and staff to better balance study/work and mental wellbeing.

Tell us a little bit about the new building and the thought process behind the structure…

When we started planning for the new build the most important thing we set about to achieve was for it to become a ‘home’ for both staff and students.  We wanted students to be able to connect with the Schools academics and to not be cut off from them.  There are lots of places for students to sit and meet within the building, kitchens areas that students can used and we hope that we have created a sense of belonging – well when we are allowed to fully return to normal!

What is your favourite element of the new site?

I love the entire building but the Atrium for me is the best part of the building, it’s light and airy and before lockdown was full of chatter and staff and students hanging out and making great use of our Independent coffee shop – Crosby Coffee.  I’m looking for that return to ‘normality’

Why do you think access to nature is so important and how do you like to #ConnectWithNature?

Spending time in green spaces or bringing nature into your everyday life benefits both your mental and physical wellbeing.

I love pottering around my parents’ garden and feeding the birds – when at work I take time to walk around our newly landscaped gardens surrounding the building and am tempted to place a bird feeder on this tree outside my office!

A picture of the view from Anna Vowles desk

We can’t wait to return to the campus and look forward to welcoming staff and students – both current and future – into the School of Law and Social Justice.

In the meantime, why not have a look at our website for more information about life on campus or visit our virtual tour to see all that the campus has to offer.

If you are interested in studying in the School of Law, visit our study pages.