It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is ‘Nature’
This year’s Mental Health Awareness month aims to inspire more people to connect with nature in new ways, and to notice the impact that this connection can have for their mental health.
It’s worth assessing your mental health regularly and to consider the particular demands or stresses you are facing and how they are affecting you. Give yourself permission to take a break from your worries, concerns and work and go outside and connect with nature. Recognise that dedicating even a short time every day to your mental fitness and happiness can reap significant benefits in terms of feeling rejuvenated and more confident.
The pandemic taught many of us that while we were isolating at home, our daily walks and cycles or time spent in the garden was invaluable to our mental health. The simple act of watching the birds or the leaves on the tress changing in the seasons suddenly became a focus to many of us when the world slowed down and we were confined more to our homes.
Now that things are opening up again, it is really important to not get trapped on the treadmill of work and daily stresses of life, and to forget the importance of looking after our mental well-being, and getting outdoors, making time to connect with nature and remember that nature is not a luxury but something available to all of us every day, no matter where you live.
Our ‘My Happy List’ worksheet can remind us to keep our mental wellbeing in check.
Exercise is good for you. So good that when you do it, your body says ‘thanks’ by sending happy chemicals to your brain. This doesn’t have to be in a gym! Instead, walk or cycle to work or school, not only will you be helping the planet by living in greener ways and connecting with nature but it will help you be physically fitter too.
Mindfulness in Nature
Mindfulness is another technique you can use to improve overall well-being and happiness. This ancient meditational approach encourages us to focus our mind on the moment rather than on worries and concerns. Our mindfulness book Slow down and be is available either in our shop here, and our ebook. The little book ’10 Things You Can Do To Make You Feel Happier Straight Away’ and others are available here too.
Spend time in nature and really watch what is around you. Ditch your phone and technology, go for a walk feel the rain on your skin or simply observe from the window- the clouds in the sky, the stars twinkling out of the window at night. Looking up at the stars feels meditative and relieves stress and calms your mind. It is easy escapism without any technology. You just need your eyes, a pair of specs if you need them, from a comfortable reclining chair is good, or you can end up with a sore neck. If weather permitting a warm blanket on the ground is even better. Why not make an evening of it, get the family of friends along if you have a garden, chose a nice night to enjoy some hot chocolate while you search for the stars and even enjoy a bonfire.
Really focus on how you feel when in nature- the sound and feeling of the wind on your face. The feeling of sand between your toes. Just stopping for a few moments, out in the fresh air and focusing on nature can make you feel more rested and at peace. Looking at the clouds and thinking about their shape – what do you see? This can be quite a mindful activity and is fun for children too.
Take a WOW Walk
One of LLTTF team members favourite things to do is to take a WOW walk. Appreciating the little things in life means that you focus your attention on what nurtures you and on everything that brings you even the smallest amount of pleasure. It also means practicing gratitude by noticing these everyday things that you take for granted so easily. Putting your ‘WOW glasses’ and take a walk, or look outside the window and really focus on what is around you, taking time to stop and
see you will discover that the world really is a beautiful and amazing place.
Getting out in the Garden
Living Life to the Full team member Theresa Kelly explains; Horticulture has a long standing relationship with mental health services where gardening occupied a large part of daily life for people.
Initially it was recognised as a way of keeping people engaged, out in the fresh air and coincidently provided a method of relaxation. Caring for plants and vegetables involves levels of responsibility, instilling a feeling of accomplishment and pride meanwhile forming a strategic part of a perhaps otherwise uneventful day when someone is struggling to keep up their usual daily routine (Hospital magazine, 1998).
In more recent times we have we have ‘green gyms’ where the benefits expected include companionship, relaxation, decision making, planning skills and education. Appreciation of seasons and plants, communication skills and an active interest in one’s surroundings regardless of the level of involvement and ability of individuals aids recovery for some people – there’s usually something for everyone. If you don’t have a garden, growing food or flowers indoors can be a very relaxing past time. Read more about growing for well-being in our blog HERE.
Gardening for Keeping Physically Fit
Tending to a garden keeps you functionally fit. Lifting pots, pruning, clipping and planting with lots of different balanced bends and twists can help your joints and strengthen your muscles. It is also really important to make sure you do this safely and have proper posture while doing these things as you can also easily strain your back. It is best to squat while gardening, it is one of the best ways to keep your balance and keeps your ankles, hips and back strong without over-straining.
Join a Peer Support Group
Many communities have local peer support groups, where you can enjoy the company of people who have similar interests, and get outdoors, make new friends and enjoy hobbies. A walking group or heritage group, local gardening groups who look after village and town gardens and plant pots and work towards winning awards for keeping their towns nice. Other groups might be local country market groups, groups who look after paths and woodland areas, local football groups and historical groups and other social groups. Community garden projects are increasingly polular – bringing local people together and giving something back to their environment such as allowing areas to grow wild plants rather than simple grass verges.
There’s an App for That
While ditching the phone to connect with nature can be a good idea, there is a lot to be said for discovering nature through technology too. There are some fantastic apps available which really easily help people to find out about plants, birds and nature etc around such as e.g. Picture This, Nature ID, Smart Bird ID and many more.
Spending time outdoors or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing, improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress and anger and help you to take time out and feel more relaxed, improve your physical health and your confidence and self-esteem and help you be more active and make new connections. Why not give it a go today! Or use our planner sheet to help decide what is a good starting place for you! Good luck!
The Living Life to the Full Team.