One of the findings to emerge from the pandemic, is that nature is our solace and connecting with nature is fundamental to human well-being. And so this year's theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) is that of 'Nature' and re-connecting with it as best we can, after all nature is central to our psychological and emotional health, not to mention our reliance on it for the air we breathe.
There’s plenty of research to support the role nature can play in protecting and supporting our mental health.
However, for many of us 'being in nature’ may not be as easy as it sounds - whether due to proximity to green space or lack of mobility. The good news is, you don’t have to climb a mountain to feel the benefit – there are lots of simple ways to bring nature into your everyday.
Here are some top tips on how you can build your own connection with nature via @Mental Health Foundation:
1. Find nature wherever you are
Nature is all around us. It might be a garden, a local park, a nearby beach or open countryside. Even in cities where nature can be harder to find, there’s things community gardens or courtyards to discover and explore. Look out for the unexpected – an urban fox on your way out for the early shift, changes in the weather or birdsong outside your window. Try to notice nature wherever you are, in whatever way is meaningful for you.
2. Connect with nature using all of your senses
Taking some quiet time to reflect in natural surroundings using all your senses can be a real boost to your mental health. Whether you’re relaxing in the garden or on your way to work, try listening out for birdsong, look for bees and butterflies, or notice the movement of the clouds. All of these good things in nature can help you to find a sense of calm and joy.
3. Get out into nature
If you can, try to spend time visiting natural places - green spaces like parks, gardens or forests – or blue spaces like the beach, rivers and wetlands. This can help you reduce your risk of mental health problems, lift your mood and help you feel better about things. If it feels daunting to get outside, try going with a friend or relative, or picking somewhere familiar.
4. Bring nature to you
Sometimes it’s hard to access natural places because of where you live, how busy you are, how safe you feel or your health. Why not try bringing nature into your home? Having plants in the house is a great way to have something natural to see, touch and smell – pots of herbs from the supermarket are a good start.
If you have a garden, allotment or balcony, think about how you can make the most of it. Grow flowers, plants or vegetables, get a bird feeder and take in the sights and sounds around you.
If planting isn’t your thing, you can also connect to nature through stories, art and sound recordings. Watching films or TV programmes about nature are also great way to connect with and reflect on nature.
5. Exercise in nature
If you're physically able to exercise, try to do it outside – whether it’s a run, cycle or a short walk. Walking or running outdoors in nature may help to prevent or reduce feelings of anger, tiredness and sadness. Try leaving the headphones at home – unless you’re listening to nature sounds of course! Or why not try new routes that bring you closer to green spaces or water?