This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme is nature, so we wanted to take the opportunity to share our top tips for improving your mental health through connecting with nature.
Taken from Harvard Health Publishing:
"In a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions."
It's not just your mental health that can improve; unsurprisingly, it is also a massive benefit to your physical health. So, what's not to love? You don't have to start going for 10-mile runs or being out in all kinds of weather if that doesn't suit you. We're going to look at ways that are suitable for everyone.
Let's dive straight in and have a look at our 5 top ways to improve your mental health through connecting with nature.
Spend time in green spaces
Whether it's a run, a jog, a leisurely walk or finding somewhere comfy to sit and read, the activity is your choice. Research has shown that spending time in green spaces such as gardens, parks, forests or fields can reduce the risk of mental health problems, improve your mood, and reduce stress. However, if you live in a city, it can often feel that you have limited access to green spaces but have a look around; green spaces are everywhere, threaded throughout the city. This could be a park, a canal or even your garden.
It has long been proven that staying physically active greatly benefits both our physical and mental health. There are many apparent activities such as walking, running, hiking etc. however, if you typically workout indoors, such as the gym, you could try the outdoor gyms that are popping up in parks across the UK. Many Zumba or Yoga classes transitioned to outdoor classes throughout the pandemic and continued to run even as restrictions started to ease. It doesn't have to be a long time outdoors either; even just 10-20 minutes daily is enough to impact your mental health positively.
We told you we would have something for everyone and when we say gardening, we don't mean just being outdoors. If you enjoy gardening, this is an excellent way of connecting with nature and improving your mental health. Growing flowers or your own herbs or vegetables can be highly satisfying. However, if you don't have a garden or have health or mobility issues that restrict you from gardening, having plants around the house can have the same effect. Whether you make an effort to place flowers around your home or grow and look after your house plants, gardening really is for everyone.
Interacting with wildlife
Interacting with wildlife in its natural habitat is widely recognised as being beneficial for overall wellbeing. Regardless of where you live, there are so many opportunities to interact with nature. This is also a great way to take a few minutes to practice mindfulness. You could spend some time watching birds in the garden, a squirrel in the park, sheep in a nearby field or even that pigeon cooing in the city centre. Take a few minutes to really slow down, watch and listen to the wildlife in front of you. You'll be surprised at how relaxed you feel.
Creative activities such as writing, painting, drawing, journaling etc., are all ways of improving your mental health so why not take it one step further and take your passion outside. There is so much inspiration around us. Whether it's crisp autumn leaves or a breezy summer day, there will be plenty to help you get creative. If you haven't tried creative activities before, now is a great time to start. You don't have to be an expert or spend much money to sit in a park and draw what you see or write about how you are feeling. Again, take the time to slow down and really take notice of your surroundings.
So that's it, five top tips that anyone can use to increase the amount of time you spend connecting with nature. We hope you find these helpful.
Below are some links with further information and advice if you are struggling with your mental health. If you are interested in learning more about Stress Management, our upcoming online Stress Management course can be found here.