A litter picking volunteer in Salford cleaned up her local area for an hour a day during lockdown to support her mental health.

Danielle Wright, who founded the community litter picking group Salford Litter Heroes, explained how litter picking helped her cope during lockdown.

“It sort of broke up the day because during lockdown it was really tough, staying in all the time,” said Danielle.

“Just going out and people questioning why you doing this, it encourages conversation with people as well, were as normally if you go for a walk you might not talk to anyone.

“It’s like that feel good feeling as well, doing something good for the environment and it’s also good for you.”

Lockdown is thought to have had a significant impact on the well-being and mental health of thousands of people.

Danielle during a litter picking event. Image credit: Olivia Mukerjea

Danielle says she believes litter picking is beneficial to mental health. She said:

“Litter picking is the way I get outside but also a form of exercise which again improves your mental health, so even if you’re just having a tough day, litter picking is one of those activities where you don’t have to think about anything else.

“I think about work all the time and it just gets a bit over whelming especially when there are other thing to be worrying about. If you’re just litter picking even with headphones on you can just go off on your own, you’re forced to think about nothing and focus on what you are doing. It’s really rewarding.

“A few volunteers have messaged me saying litter picking has saved their life.”

A group of bin bags after a litter pick event. Image credit: Olivia Mukerjea
Volunteers out cleaning up a street. Image credit: Olivia Mukerjea

A survey conducted by the UK Household Longitudinal Study discovered that: “The percentage of participants classified as experiencing mental health problems increased from 23.3% in 2017-2019 to 36.8% in April 2020.”

They also concluded that the rise in mental health problems could be due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Mental Health Foundation also believes that one way to support good mental health and wellbeing is to “be part of something bigger”. This can be done by taking part in community engaging activities.

Danielle says litter picking is accessible for anyone.

“There is that option there for those that suffer with anxiety and being shy and not wanting to approach people, they can approach at their own level, and then steps back and be in the street somewhere else if they want the social aspect.

“Some people during COVID haven’t been out or spoken to anyone, especially those isolating who are at really high risk but if you go out and litter pick, it’s distanced, you don’t have to touch, you don’t have to be within two metres.

“Especially if you bring your own equipment, it’s the most socially distanced sport, I’d actually go as far as to say it is a sport cause it does tire you out, especially carrying big bin bags.

“So I’d say it is the most safe and socially distanced sport that you can do to get outside and have some exercise but be social at the same time.”

If you want to be involved with a litter pick event, you can follow Salford Litter Heroes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or check out their website for more details.

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