This week was Mental Health Awareness week, and the theme this year is nature. Usually starting the second Monday of May, the Mental Health Foundation has run its awareness week every year since 2001. The theme of nature was chosen as many people have turned to nature during the pandemic to help improve their psychological and emotional health.
Nature and mental health
I’ve heard of garden therapy before, which may be an oversimplification, but its effects can be really good. I’ve written before about crafting and mental health, where handiwork like knitting, painting, pottery, and gardening can relieve stress. Some highlights that relate to nature being:
- creating something can induce pleasure, such as planting a bulb and seeing it grow and bloom;
- staying present provides distraction, if the mind is occupied enough by digging soil or de-weeding then the mind won’t overthink;
- handiwork improves cognitive skills, physical movements through gardening can improve brain plasticity and motor function and even trigger hand memories; and
- being outside increases vitamin D dosage, high levels of vitamin D reduces depression.
Connecting with nature
There are many ways to connect with nature, whether physically going outside for a walk or experiencing it from inside the home.
- leave the home and go for a walk in a park, by a river, on the beach;
- photograph nature out and about;
- smell flowers;
- feel the sand on your feet on a beach;
- listen to birdsong, a babbling brook, or rustling leaves.
- sit in the garden, stand on your balcony, or open a window looking out for an urban fox or listen for birdsong;
- hang seed feeders or install a bird bath to attract birds, providing a food or water source;
- watch a nature documentary, film, or TV programme about nature;
- grow plants, flowers, or herbs in your own garden or home;
- draw or paint animals, flowers, or landscapes.
I personally have not been going outside as much as I should during the past year. I have been apprehensive, but also simply lazy. Lately though, as some places have started opening up a little in the UK, the hubby and I have been venturing out to nature a little more.
We’ve visited Hampton Court Palace and Kew Gardens to see the tulips – my favourite flowers. And I must admit – it has been calming. Seeing the bright colours of tulips, feeling the blossoms fall down into your hand, and hearing the rustling of the leaves. It was peaceful. What have you been doing lately to try and get in tune with nature?