This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focused on the theme of nature and there is a good reason for that. There are many proven benefits of being exposed to nature and the positive impact it has on mental health and wellbeing.
Being in nature helps you take time out from life’s everyday demands and can make you feel more relaxed, improve your mood, and reduce any feelings of stress or anger.
The healing effects of nature also complement counselling really well, and the more you can do to support your own emotional wellbeing, the better.
Related article: 6 Ways to Feel More Positive When Life Feels Hard
So here are seven ideas to enjoy nature for better mental health.
Daily short walks are great for several reasons.
Walks in the daylight help us produce vitamin D which can improve our immune system and has links to overall wellbeing. Aim for a short lunchtime walk if you can, especially during the winter months when it’s often dark by the time we get home from work.
Getting outside first thing in the morning helps kick-start our circadian rhythm for the day so that we feel sleepy enough in the evening to get to bed at a good time for plenty of sleep.
Plus, the regular exercise from short walks can boost the release of some of our ‘happy hormones’ such as serotonin and endorphins which both help us feel good.
Long walks and hikes are a great weekend activity.
They can be a social event if you go walking with your family, a friend, or a walking group – meaning you get the benefits of connecting with others as well as the benefits of nature.
Solo walking is also good for us as it provides time for thinking, admiring the views, and mindfully taking in all the noises that nature brings.
If you need some inspiration, here are some walking routes.
Cycling is great physical exercise but can also get you outdoors more.
Whilst exercise bikes help you stay fit and healthy, cycling outdoors allows you to get some much-needed fresh air too and can enable you to explore and visit new places and nature spots.
There are cycle routes all across the UK and it’s an easy activity to do as a family. You can even hire bikes if you don’t have space for them at home.
Whether it’s sitting by the sea, canoeing down a river, fishing a lake, or wild swimming, there are lots of opportunities to enjoy the water all year round.
Being near water is calming and soothing and can give you much needed space for reflection.
50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾
The National Trust share lists of activities children can do to encourage them to get out in nature, from rolling down hills to skimming stones, they have ideas suited to all ages and abilities – even grown-ups!
For fun seasonal activities you can do out-and-about, or at home in the garden, see 50 Things To Do.
Painting rocks and putting them in random places around where you live has become really popular over the last few years.
It doesn’t matter what age you are, painting the rocks gets you into a glorious state of mindfulness, and you can hide them outdoors for others to find.
You can add hashtags such as #SuffolkRocks so that when people find them, they can share pictures of them on social media.
If others are doing it in your area, you might enjoy some walks to see if you can spot any yourself. If you find one, feel free to move it to a new location to be found by someone else.
Green fingers are good for everyone.
Having our own green space is really good for our wellbeing as we can get out there little and often and spend time caring for the plants that we have.
If you don’t have a garden, you could see if there are allotments nearby, or get some plant pots to go by your door for some flowers or herbs. And if you don’t have any outdoor space, indoor plants could be a great alternative.
Your local garden centre will be able to advise you on pet-friendly and child-friend plants and give you information on how to keep them alive and blooming.
Related article: Self-care Ideas
Whatever way you choose to enjoy nature, you can share the benefits with others through photos and talking about your adventures, encouraging others to get out in nature too.
And if you feel like you need someone to talk to, I’m here for counselling sessions.
They are completely confidential and I offer a safe space to explore how your mental health might be impacted by any emotional turmoil you’re going through.
Remember, it’s ok not to feel ok, but there is help waiting for you when you’re ready.
You can always contact me for a chat about the support I offer.