Today marks the launch of Mental Health Awareness Week, the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health.
This year, the theme for the week is ‘Nature’. Across the country, people will be celebrating the mental health benefits of being around nature in their local community in a range of digital and creative ways.
“Mental Health Awareness Week has grown to be one of the biggest awareness weeks in the UK. This year the theme is on nature and its central role for our mental health. Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of us turned to nature to help us get through lockdowns and our research shows that good mental health depends on us being able to connect with nature in some way and its power in both prevention of and recovery from poor mental health.
During the week, we want to hear millions of people’s stories about how the natural world has supported their mental health.
We also want to highlight the huge disparities between who is and who isn’t able to access nature. We want the week to explore how everyone across the UK can connect with nature and experience the mental health benefits wherever they live.”Mark Rowland Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation
TOP TIPS on connecting with nature to improve your mental health
01 – Find nature wherever you are
Nature is all around us. It might be a garden, a local park, a nearby
beach or open countryside. Even in cities where nature can be
harder to fi nd, there’s things community gardens or courtyards to
discover and explore.
Look out for the unexpected – an urban fox on your way out for
the early shift, changes in the weather or birdsong outside your
window. Try to notice nature wherever you are, in whatever way is
meaningful for you.
02 – Connect with nature using all of your senses
Taking some quiet time to reflect in natural surroundings
using all your senses can be a real boost to your mental
health. Whether you’re relaxing in the garden or on your
way to work, try listening out for birdsong, look for bees
and butterflies, or notice the movement of the clouds. All
of these good things in nature can help you to fi nd a sense
of calm and joy.
03 – Get out into nature
If you can, try to spend time visiting natural places – green
spaces like parks, gardens or forests – or blue spaces like the
beach, rivers and wetlands. This can help you reduce your
risk of mental health problems, lift your mood and help you
feel better about things.
If it feels daunting to get outside, try going with a friend or
relative, or picking somewhere familiar.
04 Bring nature to you
Sometimes it’s hard to access natural places because of where you live, how busy
you are, how safe you feel or your health. Why not try bringing nature into your
home? Having plants in the house is a great way to have something natural to see,
touch and smell – pots of herbs from the supermarket are a good start.
If you have a garden, allotment or balcony, think about how you can make the
most of it. Grow fl owers, plants or vegetables, get a bird feeder and take in the
sights and sounds around you.
If planting isn’t your thing, you can also connect to nature through stories, art
and sound recordings. Watching films or TV programmes about nature are also
great way to connect with and reflect on nature
05 Exercise in nature
If you’re physically able to exercise, try to do it outside
– whether it’s a run, cycle or a short walk. Walking or
running outdoors in nature may help to prevent or
reduce feelings of anger, tiredness and sadness. Try
leaving the headphones at home – unless you’re listening
to nature sounds of course! Or why not try new routes
that bring you closer to green spaces or water?
06 Combine nature with creativity
Try combining creativity with your natural environment. This
could involve taking part in creative activities outside, like dance,
music, or art. All of these things can help reduce stress and
improve your mood.
You could also increase your sense of connection by taking
photos, writing, drawing or painting pictures of the landscape,
plants or animals.
Noticing the beauty of nature and expressing this creatively can
help you fi nd meaning and an emotional connection to nature that
will stay with you for a lifetime.
07 Protect nature
Taking care of something can be a really great way to
feel good. And what better thing to take care of than
nature? Nature is truly amazing – do what you can to
look after nature – in your actions and choices
This can be as simple as recycling, to walking instead
of driving, or even joining community conservation or
clean-up groups. Taking care of nature can help you
feel that you’re doing your part, and that can make
you feel more positive all round.