about us

SongPath is a mental health initiative, encouraging creative connection to the world around us through walking, talking and music-making in nature.

What is SongPath?

SongPath is a mental health initiative, encouraging creative connection to the world around us through walking, talking and music-making in nature.

 

Our outdoor interactive events around the UK unite professional musicians, creatives and guest speakers 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. Joining us along the way have been botanists, ornithologists, psychiatrists and mental health experts, dancers, tai chi experts and an array of world-class musicians. Together, we explore how an enriched appreciation of what lies underfoot and overhead can benefit our wellbeing.

 

SongPath also grows roots in local communities by providing free creative workshops to service users experiencing mental health difficulties, in partnership with local mental health charities. Through group music-making, improvisation, song writing, and sensory and mindfulness exercises, we build on the wealth of scientific evidence indicating that music and nature can aid wellbeing and mental health.

 

Founded in 2019 by singers and friends Jess Dandy and Joanna Harries, SongPath has so far travelled to Cumbria, Oxfordshire and Yorkshire, working in partnership with music organisations (Ulverston International Music Festival, Oxford International Song Festival, Leeds Lieder, Beverley Early Music Festival), outdoor spaces and places (Oxford Botanic Gardens, Kirkstall Abbey, RSPB St Aidans, Swarthmoor Hall) and local mental health charities (Ulverston Mind, Mind in Furness, Oxfordshire Mind, Leeds Mind, Arts & Minds Leeds).

“We appreciated it on all sorts of levels but I think the most important part was the link made between mental wellbeing and both walking and music.”

Event attendees

SongPath Cumbria 2019

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, we offer people a way of creatively connecting to their local environments and communities.

“The team behind SongPath spent many hours visiting our Wellbeing Centre to work with people using music as a way to relax and find encouragement in the words and patterns. For many of us the idea of joining in with an opera or classical singer seemed a long way from our everyday experience of music. The very first session quickly brought people together by demonstrating that we all have a sound and personality that is both unique and important to others.”

Staff member & Chairman

Mind in Furness

Why is creative connection with nature so important?

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 inspired by psychotherapeutic principles. We’ve worked closely with consultant psychotherapist, Rufus Harrington (Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at the University of Cumbria), to develop our practices.

 

SongPath is inspired by 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 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.

“It was relaxed, good fun, not pressurised. The music was very wonderful. I was especially moved by the harp in the woodlands beside the stream…and the talk about the reaction of the brain to music. I stayed to walk the maze at the end and treated it as an opportunity to thank you all in a very quiet way for bringing a sense of tranquillity to us all.”

Event attendee

SongPath Cumbria 2019

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”, as one 2019 participant said.

 

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.

“My lasting memories will be of one member requesting more and more singing in a workshop, and the amazing chanting in the warm house. Singing and making sounds felt especially beneficial along with the surrounds of the Botanic Garden on that beautiful day! Thank you so much for all your very hard work and making us feel like your special collaborators.”

Staff member

Oxfordshire Mind

Next Events

Find out about our upcoming SongPath events.

Past Events

From our first SongPath in Cumbria to Oxfordshire and Yorkshire.

People

Find out about the people who've joined us on SongPaths

Questions?

If you’d like to find out more about SongPath or ask us about an upcoming event, we’d love to hear from you!