Mental Health Awareness week #ConnectWithNature

- Thu 13 May 2021

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Let’s do all we can to support the people around us and celebrate this year’s theme of #ConnectWithNature. We have put together 5 top tips for us to connect with nature and promote the amazing benefits that nature brings to our well-being!

1. Get fresh air!

Many of us associate nature with long walks in the open countryside or forests, climbing up mountains or exploring new coastal towns. Although these are great ways to get fresh air, keep active and connect with nature, nature can be much closer than we think! Nature is in our gardens, the local park, the fox you see on the way to your early shift, the change in weather and the sound of the trees blowing outside your window.

Take notice of your surroundings, be cautious and appreciate what is beautiful to you. When you are more mindful and aware of your surroundings, your mental state is automatically more positive. Greater awareness also helps us notice the simple pleasures and helps us be present with our feelings and emotions enabling us to talk about them more.

Any form of outdoor life is a good way to relieve stress and anxiety, even if you feel more comfortable staying in your familiar settings. Drink your morning cup of tea outside whilst listening to the birds sing, walk to your local park and notice things you may not usually pay attention to and how they make you feel. Maybe the colour of the leaves are changing to a warming colour, the sunlight that is shimmering on the duck pond or the breeze on your skin makes you feel relaxed. If you are living in the city and nature feels harder to find, try to notice it wherever you are in whatever way is meaningful to you. The movement of the pink clouds in the sky on your way home from work after a warmer day, the new colours of buds in community gardens that are just beginning to blossom or when you are home, open your windows and notice any bees and butterflies you may be able to spot.

2. Use nature to connect with people!

With the recent announcement that we are now able to meet in groups of 30 people outdoors, instead of boozing with your friends at the weekend, plan to visit local green spaces and take a picnic or plan an activity such as cycling or paddle boarding that gets you outdoors. Taking time to reflect in natural surroundings using all your senses, sparking up new conversations and exploring new places and activities with friends can be a real boost to your mental health.

If you prefer to stay closer to home and have a garden, instead of your friends coming around and sitting in your living room, dine alfresco! Wrap up warm and enjoy the outdoors whilst catching up, this can be a real mood booster and maybe the perfect excuse to buy that new garden furniture set you’ve been thinking about recently!

If you have younger children, try incorporating nature into new activities such as making collages out of natural materials like leaves, twigs and stones or plan a day to capture photographs of pretty flowers and sunsets to make into postcards or cards to send to friends and family. These activities can all be done from your own garden or local park!

If you have found during the last year that nature and being outdoors has helped you a lot through the pandemic, think about obtaining an annual pass to one of your local nature reserves or the national trust and continue your love for the outdoors even when life returns to normal!

3. Gardening is good!

Gardening is good for our mental health. Even something as simple as having a plant on your desk can reduce stress and make you feel more energised and able to think more clearly, and many that suffer from anxiety or depression have found gardening and caring for plants to be incredibly beneficial. Many people believe gardening makes us feel good because it is both a physical exercise, which releases endorphins and also a creative art that allows us to express ourselves.

Gardening is also a way of caring for something. The responsibility that comes with it gives us a sense of purpose and pride.

rep your garden ready for summer it will give your structure and something to look forward to and hopefully the end result will be very rewarding. Prepare your garden and clear out sheds that you haven’t looked in for the past year! Make sure your lawn is watered in dryer spells and give it feed if needed to bring out its vibrant green colour. Maybe look for a small DIY project such as a decked area or if you have a smaller courtyard look at potted plants and how to give it some style like a bistro dining set, outdoor rugs and fairy solar lights. Create the perfect space for friends, family or even just yourself to sit and relax.

4. Nature isn’t always just outdoors!

Houseplants are good for your health and not just for their visual beauty. They essentially do the opposite of what we do when we breathe release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. This not only freshens up the air but also eliminates harmful toxins. Research by NASA has revealed that houseplants can remove up to 87 per cent of air toxin in 24 hours!

Many of us are now working from home and have recently created a study or purchased a new home with a study to work from. Fill your new space with plants, not only do they look aesthetically pleasing, house plants can improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress levels and boost your mood… the perfect accessory for your workspace!

Whether you live in a small apartment or 5 bedroom house with acres of land, there is always a windowsill that would benefit from a new potted plant and they are a really good inexpensive way to jazz up your home. You can start easy with a cactus or a low maintenance green plant such as a spider plant- These are great low maintenance plants, which need watering from the bottom perhaps once a week and a misting every now and then. Evaluate how you feel after doing small tasks like potting a new plant and watching it grow, it will prove more rewarding than you think.

5. Keep learning!

Taking on new tasks such as potting plants or being more productive in our gardens or outdoor space is very good for the brain. Trying something new or rediscovering an old interest can also make your confidence grow and the sense of fulfilment is always a good feeling.

The more experienced you get, you may want to try potting more complex, unusual plants or look into what indoor and outdoor plants thrive better in different environments. The options with nature are endless and there is always something new to try and explore no matter who you are or where you may live.

Remember, the simplest of things can make all the difference with our mood and that of our loved ones. Encourage others to join you and together we can help each other through the toughest of times.