Mental Health Awareness Week 2021
Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from 10-16 May 2021, and this year the focus is on the benefits of nature on our Mental Health. After 2020 a great deal of focus has been placed on the impact of lockdowns on our mental health. And, alongside that research came evidence to support our relationship with nature.
A YouGov Poll found that 73% of people said that connecting to nature has been important in managing their mental health during the pandemic, and 34% of people found that they connected more with nature during this time.
The Mental Health Foundation conducted its own research and found that visiting green spaces, such as parks was one of the top coping strategies and 45% of the UK adult population used this to cope with the stress of the pandemic and its restrictions. And that 65% of people felt that spending time in the countryside and/or by water had a positive impact on their mental wellbeing.
I know for myself, moments of sitting in my garden in the early morning gave me moments of respite, so I can really relate to this research. Whilst I recognise the privileged position I was in to have a garden space, it also demonstrates that the ways we can connect to Nature don’t have to be long walks on the beach, or hikes in the countryside. It can be small moments.
The other thing that springs to mind, is the number of people who invested time, energy and money into houseplants.
So what can you do?
The ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ are a set of pillars which are key to improving our mental health. Modelled by the New Economics Foundation, they’re geared around themes of social connectedness, physical activity, awareness, learning, and giving.
‘Connectedness’ is our individual way to feel emotionally connected to the natural world with nature. Connectedness goes beyond simply having contact with nature; the concept of connectedness encompasses how we feel, think and experience our relationship with the natural environment.
Take a moment to notice and celebrate nature in your daily life. Use your senses, listen to the birds singing, smell the flowers, notice the smell of rain on grass, the colour of the flowers, feel the texture of the bark on trees, watch the breeze through the leaves.
You might be surprised by what you notice!
Think about the way you feel as you notice these things, reflect on the joy and calm nature can bring.
Take stock of your surroundings, be curious, catch sight of the beautiful. Be present to your feelings and environment. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you. Take a photo, video or sound recording and share the connections you’ve made during the week, to inspire others. We don’t always have to be in nature to further our relationship with the natural world: writing a poem about our favourite nature spot or reflecting on preferred walks. Notice how nature appears in other songs, stories and art. Notice the changing cycles of the seasons.
Giving encapsulates many things – from showing goodwill and generosity of spirit to giving presents and giving up our time. Evidence suggests that ‘giving back’ or helping others promotes wellbeing for all ages. Compassion Taking actions that are good for nature, e.g. creating homes for nature, and making ethical product choices. Share your seedlings with people, invite friends to share your space with you.
Engaging in regular physical activity is known to go hand in hand with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Not everyone needs to be a fitness fanatic to boost your wellness through activity. Simply step outside, exercise your green fingers
Learning something new is good for your brain and often exciting for the learner. The challenge and enjoyment of learning new things gives a sense of fulfilment that is second to none. Learn about your favourite plants about how to grow and nurture them, or about the AONB in the UK. Investigate new walking routes in your local area. Be curious.
The list is endless. The Mental Health Foundation have a wonderful infoguide you can look at for inspiration too.
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