It’s Mental Health Awareness Week! And this year’s theme is nature and the role it plays in fostering our mental and emotional wellbeing.
As restrictions lift and Spring unfolds, what better time to make the most of being in nature and soaking up the benefits.
During the pandemic our awareness of the positive impact nature has increased significantly. Over 45% of us have reported that being in green spaces has been vital for our mental health and that going for walks is one of our top coping strategies during the pandemic.
Being outdoors surrounded by nature helps to ground us, promotes creativity and lessens our stress levels. Being in touch with nature reduces feelings of isolation and acts as a protective measure towards developing mental health problems.
During this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we are inviting everyone to spend time outdoors. Take a moment to notice your surroundings, taking in what’s around you be that wildlife, flowers or views. Set yourself the challenge of finding new ways to connect with nature in your local environment.
There are many ways to bring nature into your everyday life. Whether you live in a busy city or in the middle of the countryside, there are plenty of things you can do to reap the benefits nature can bring to our mental wellbeing.
Here are our top five tips to connect to nature:
1. Engage with nature – be it a tree on the side of the street, a fox crossing the road, or birds at your windowsill, bring your attention to and engage with the moment. If connecting to nature doesn’t come easy, set aside some time to go on a ‘nature date’ with a friend, colleague or family member. Find a nice place with some greenery, water or open views to enjoy. Being by the water is good for the body and the mind and is associated with improving our relationships with ourselves and others.
2. Immerse yourself in nature using all of your senses – use your senses to notice nature around you. How does the grass feel under your hands or feet? What sounds do the birds make? How many colours can you notice in a sunset? You get the idea! Being in contact with nature is a great moment to practice gratitude and mindfulness.
3. Bring nature to your home – when you’re not able to go outside or are forced indoors by a gloomy, grey day, you can always bring nature into your home. Plants can be a great way to bring a little greenery inside and also have the added benefit of increasing oxygen levels inside!
4. Exercise in nature – the benefits of staying active and regular exercise are long proven, so why not combine the two and go for a gentle stroll or do a high impact workout in nature? Natural spaces are a great (and free!) place to exercise and if you like to workout with friends or loved ones you have the added benefit of social interactions, which are also important for maintaining our mental wellbeing!
5. Interact with animals and wildlife – footage of wildlife saw hits increase by over 2000% during lockdown. Spending time with, or observing animals has been proven to be beneficial for our wellbeing and promoted increases in our relaxation levels. If you can’t see any wildlife, try to listen out for animals instead. See if you can hear the birdsong in the mornings and early evenings.
Feel free to mix and match our top five tips to find what feels best for you. The relationship we develop with nature is unique for everyone. It will flourish and grow based on the attention and dedication we give to it.
Author: Sarah Speziali, Chief Therapist at InsideOut