Connectedness with Nature
Connecting with nature benefits our mental health, but its not just about getting outside.
In Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 the theme is connectedness with nature. During our MHFA Networking Group we shared ideas on ways to do this – both personally and within organisations.
Connecting with nature benefits our mental health. Research has shown that it is not just about getting outside, it is about noticing and really appreciating the many aspects of nature. The Mental Health Foundation found that over the last year 45% of people had noticed the benefits to their mental health of visiting green spaces and helped them cope with the impact of the pandemic, so they chose this as the theme for MHAW.
• 2 hours is the optimum time per week to benefit from being in nature. Whilst it is good to be outside for longer the psychological benefits did not continue to increase. (White et al, 2018) They also found it didn’t matter this were achieved – one long walk or lots of short breaks.
• Higher life satisfaction and positive emotions including calmness, joy, creativity were benefits shown by those connected with nature. There was also a lower incidence of anxiety and depression.
• Interestingly, those showing connectedness were also more likely to demonstrate positive environmental habits e.g. recycling and buying seasonal food.
It has to be recognised that not everyone has easy access to nature, and it may be necessary to be creative in how to achieve it. Connecting with nature can take many forms – open countryside, being by the sea, trees in urban areas, indoor plants, and surprisingly, watching nature via webcams or documentaries.
The Mental Health Foundation have collated a range of resources to support the theme including simple tips (you can download them from their site www.mentalhealth.org.uk). These include:
• Finding nature wherever you are and taking time to notice it
• Use all of your senses when connecting – listen, smell, as well as look
• Try to get outside to natural places, whether a local park, countryside or forest
• If you can’t get to nature, bring it to you. Growing herbs on a windowsill or a bird feeder you can watch through the window
• Exercising outside in nature
• Being creative – take photos, draw, etc
• Taking care of nature. Walk instead of drive, join a beach clean
Discussion in the MHFA Networking group collated a great list of ideas.
• Getting out for a walk every day. There was discussion about the benefits noticed of going out really early when no-one was around, when everything felt quiet and still with the promise of a new day
• Sharing photos with friends
• Sea swimming (whatever the weather and temperature, possibly not one for everybody!)
• Short mindfulness practices outside
• Watching tv programmes about nature, the natural world and gardening
• Providing practical help to others not able to access nature e.g. taking a neighbour out
• Doing gardening
• Photo competition encouraging people to send photos of being out and about in nature
• Walking meetings. Multiple benefits have been found from with anecdotal evidence finding increased collaboration and creativity, as well as exercise and being outside.
• Developing a nature trail around the site (this was on a university campus)
• Weekly wellbeing call with nature as the theme for this week.
• Bug hotels (this was a primary school!)
• Giving plants as gifts
I know being outside whether in the garden, on the beach or in the country is vital for many aspects of my physical and mental wellbeing. The photos above have all been take whilst I have been out and about recently. I take hundreds of them to capture the moments and enjoy when I can’t be outside.
What actions will you take to connect with nature in MHAW?
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If you would like to learn more about raising awareness of mental health or training to become a Mental Health First Aider, please get in touch.
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