By Lindsey Appleby-Flynn, Connect2Care’s mental health expert
The trees have fresh new buds, daffodils have flowered and the weather is getting warmer. Spring has certainly sprung! With it spring also brings around Mental Health Awareness Week, this year celebrated between the 10th and 16th of May.
Aristotle once said that ‘there is something to be wondered at in all of nature’. And with many of us often saying that being outside makes us feel happier – it’s no surprise than 2021’s Mental Health Awareness Week focuses on the mental health benefits of ‘nature’.
The mental health benefits of nature
Connecting with nature has been found to help with various mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ecotherapy, a relatively new form of treatment, involves getting out in the open to engage in activities outside and connecting with nature. At its core, Ecotherapy is the connection that humans share with the planet and its ecosystems.
There are a growing number of studies that show the benefits of this type of therapy. In one study conducted by psychologist Terry Hartig, participants were asked to complete a 40-minute cognitive task designed to induce mental fatigue. Following the task, participants were randomly assigned 40 minutes of time to be spent in one of three conditions: walking in a nature reserve, walking in an urban area, or sitting quietly while reading magazines and listening to music. Participants who had walked in the nature reserve reported less anger and more positive emotions than those who engaged in the other activities.
In a similar study conducted by Mind, a leading mental health charity, found that a nature walk reduced symptoms of depression in 71% of participants, compared to only 45% of those who took a walk through a shopping centre. Put simply, being amongst nature has fantastic mental health promoting properties!
Much of our modern lifestyle means we’ve become disassociated with nature. This is partly down to the way that the world is now, things like shopping can be done from the comfort of your sofa and the increase in technology use has meant that millions can now work from home.
Connect with nature as part of your daily routine
Cast your mind back to March last year and the first national lockdown, we were all told by the government that we were only allowed out for one hour per day to exercise. In a desperate desire for us to leave the confines of our homes, this message seemed to energise Britain and the streets were full of people enjoying their daily walks or jogs and our green spaces were full of families (from the same household) playing various sports.
My hope is that people continue to keep this up so that people do not lose this new association that they may have discovered with nature. As we’ve discovered, spending time in green spaces, being active and bringing nature into your everyday life can have a significant positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Here are some potential benefits to reconnecting with nature:
- Improves your mood
- Helps with mobility
- Can help you to feel more relaxed
- A good way to relieve stress
- Gives you time and space to order your thoughts
- It improves your chances of making new connections
- Can help with your confidence
- Exercise helps you to burn a few extra calories.
In Britain, 87% of us have access to garden space, but sadly that leaves 13% of us that do not. However, this certainly doesn’t mean you can’t experience nature in your own way! Connecting with nature can also be achieved by bringing nature indoors.
A few tips to bring nature to your home include:
- Buy flowers or potted plants for your home.
- Collect natural materials, for example leaves, flowers, feathers, tree bark or seeds – use them to decorate your living space or in art projects.
- Arrange a comfortable space to sit, for example by a window where you can look out over a view of trees or the sky.
- Grow plants or flowers on windowsills.
- Take photos of your favourite places in nature. Use them as backgrounds on a mobile phone or computer screen, or print and put them up on your walls.
- Listen to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall.
Free First Aid for Mental Health training
At Connect2Care, we’re passionate about promoting good mental health for all. That’s why we’re offering our Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health training course completely free of charge to support employers who want to be more mental health inclusive, but don’t have the funds to do so.
Two staff members from any business in the UK are eligible for the online tutor-led learning. This initiative has been launched in response to growing concerns around mental health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
To apply for your free place, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org