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About SongPath

creative connections for better mental health

SongPath is a mental health initiative, providing participants with nourishing ways of connecting through walking, talking and music-making in nature.

Founded in 2019 by singers Jess Dandy and Joanna Harries, it exists to creatively reconnect us with the natural world around us through music, poetry, art and science.

Our outdoor interactive events around the UK unite professional musicians, experts on the natural world and mental health professionals in uniquely curated walking trails rooted in each local landscape.

We take a short route and unearth a wealth of connections to the world around us through music, art, poetry and science. We re-enchant our surroundings through an enriched appreciation of what lies underfoot and overhead.

SongPath also grows roots in local communities by partnering with local branches of mental health charity Mind to provide free workshops and free places at our events for service users.

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Why do we do it?

Mental health and wellbeing are important for all of us. Mental health problems are one of the biggest public health challenges in the UK today and major depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Every week 1 in 6 adults will experience a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression.

 

Mental Health Foundation report (2016): Fundamental facts about mental health

Natural England Report (2016): Links between natural environments and mental health: evidence briefing

European Centre for Environment and Human Health/University of Exeter Medical School

At SongPath we want to help everybody to manage their mental health and wellbeing using the natural world that surrounds us all.

 

There is a wide and growing body of scientific evidence about the physiological and psychological benefits of spending time in nature. It has been shown to reduce cortisol (stress) levels and lower the risk of poor mental health, psychiatric morbidity, psychological distress, depression, clinical anxiety, and mood disorders.

 

Overview of medical evidence for benefits of nature, collated by University of Exeter (2014): A Dose of Nature

Mental Health Foundation Report (2021): Nature: How connecting with nature benefits our mental health

 

Likewise, engaging with music and the creative arts can also enhance physical and mental wellbeing. It can protect against mental health conditions, alleviate anxiety, depression and stress, loneliness and isolation, and even boost your immune system.

Mental Health Foundation (2019): How arts can improve your mental health

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017) Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing

Rebecchini, L. (2021): Music, mental health, and immunity. Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health (Vol.18)

Through our public events and workshops for local branches of mental health charity Mind, we offer people a way of creatively connecting to their local environments and communities.

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How does it work?

All mental health conditions are characterised by disconnection: from ourselves, our families, our friends, and the world around us. SongPath seeks to re-connect us with our surroundings through creatively curated outdoor events.

 

SongPath is not a replacement for psychotherapy.  But SongPath is an activity with therapeutic benefits and is based on psychotherapeutic principles. We’ve worked closely with our consultant psychotherapist, Rufus Harrington (Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at the University of Cumbria), to ensure that our method is scientific, and evidence based.

 

SongPath is based on principles including:

 

  • A clinical psychology treatment model called attentional redirection training

Originally used in the treatment of ADHD, but now used more widely for anxiety and depression. It asks the participant to describe in as much detail as possible everything they can see and sense in their immediate environment, taking them out of their own heads and unhelpful inward-looking thought patterns. Translating this exercise to a communal, creative, nature-based context, amplifies its manifold restorative powers.

 

  • The psycho-physiological stress recovery theory

Based on empirical findings of an immediate positive response to views of nature. This response causes a rapid reduction in stress (blood pressure, muscle tension pulse rate) usually within minutes of exposure of nature and is most obvious when the body is already stressed.

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Join us on the SongPath

The brain is an inherently connective structure: a rich, intricate web of interrelations and associations.  SongPath reflects, harnesses and cultivates this beautiful, powerful and exponential connectivity. By stepping onto the SongPath, we can learn to see things differently: not through a lens of fear, but with a kind, imaginative curiosity, and with hope. Together we can find “an unexpectedly powerful camaraderie”, one 2019 participant said.

 

The ash tree we touch here and now shapeshifts into the ash tree of your childhood garden or the Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Ancient Norse Mythology; Cedric Robinson walking the sands of Morecambe Bay might point us to J.M.W. Turner’s paintings of the same seascape just a century before or Franz Liszt’s wonderful depiction for piano of St Francis of Paola miraculously walking the Strait of Messina to Sicily in 1464.

 

The wandering of the legs gives rise to the wandering of the mind, across centuries, continents, modes of thought, fact, fiction, emotions, memories, and back again.  In an industrial and digital age of bodily disconnection, music and walking also restore our attunement to natural bodily rhythms. Good mental health is to be found in connections and SongPath has them in spades.

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