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Boost your mental health with nature

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Lizzie Tasker Wellbeing, Lifestyle, Work Life Balance...

This week, 10th to 16th May 2021, is Mental Health Awareness Week. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, the chosen theme for 2021 is nature. Click here to find out more about their campaign.

It’s a fitting theme, considering so many of us have rediscovered or developed a newfound appreciation for the natural world around us since lockdown restrictions began last year.

The Government’s mandate to ‘stay at home’ halted travel, limited our usual leisure options, and isolated us from friends and family. Gardens, parks, green spaces, and the countryside have never been so popular, even prompting a trend of city-dwellers looking to relocate to more rural areas. Exercising outside, be it gardening, walking, or simply sitting in the fresh air has been a lifeline for many during these turbulent and unsettling times.

This all comes at a point where it’s impossible to avoid the headlines surrounding the negative impact that society has on the environment and that serious changes need to be made quickly to avoid catastrophic consequences. Even in a relatively short period of time with reduced traffic on the roads and planes grounded, emissions drastically decreased and we experienced less noise and air pollution, clearer waters, and the return of wildlife to some urban areas. This has been a silver lining amidst the chaos of the pandemic.

The Mental Health Foundation are keen to raise awareness of the link between nature and our wellbeing, stating:

As human beings, we are all profoundly influenced by the environment we grow up in and in which we live. Our social, economic, and cultural circumstances all affect our emotional development and wellbeing, and so too does our connection with nature.

Nature’s wellbeing is intrinsic to our own experience of health and wellbeing.

As a generalisation, in modern society, we have grown accustomed to spending more and more time staring at screens and less time in nature. But the power of nature should not be underestimated; it has the potential to shift your whole mood and give you a new perspective.  In a survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation, 58% of respondents said that a walk outside helped them cope with the stress of the pandemic.

BENEFITS OF NATURE

  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces feelings of anger
  • Improves physical health
  • Improves short-term memory
  • Improves confidence and self-esteem
  • Increased levels of Vitamin D
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Boosts creativity

And many, many more. 

ENJOYING THE NATURAL WORLD

Nature is free and the best thing is that there's a way for everyone to enjoy it. It’s not necessarily about hiking for miles or being an expert gardener, you can connect with the outdoors in whatever way suits you. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Birdwatching / listening to bird song - you don’t even have to leave the house, just open a window and listen to the sounds of nature around you.
  • Planting and growing your own food - enjoy the satisfaction and reap the rewards of eating something you’ve grown yourself. Don’t have a garden, don’t worry! Many things can be grown in pots with a little sunlight and regular watering. Or even try foraging for food in the wild - just make sure you know what’s safe to eat first!
  • Exercise - running, walking, fitness classes - ditch the gym and take your workout outdoors for a motivation boost!
  • Relaxation and mindfulness - find a peaceful spot to take some deep breaths and clear your mind
  • Connecting with wildlife - people of all ages enjoy spotting all kinds of wildlife, both big and small
  • Meeting friends - recruit a few friends to enjoy some time outside to further boost the benefits of nature
  • Be creative - writing, photography, drawing, or painting - take inspiration from the great outdoors

Whatever you do to enjoy nature, always follow the golden rule - leave no trace of your visit. Always follow The Countryside Code. 

MAXIMISE THE BENEFITS

  • Pause - whenever you go outside, take a moment to be fully present in your surroundings; experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells
  • Be open-minded - if the spiritual side of things isn’t your bag, stay open-minded and notice how you feel after spending time in nature
  • Bring nature inside - whatever space you have, you can find something to suit. Plants are an on-trend way to update your décor, too!
  • Share nature - inspire others to enjoy nature by inviting friends to join you for a walk, sharing a photo on social media or by joining in the conversation online using #connectwithnature