This year we’re all being encouraged to take walks in the woods, a swim in the sea, smell fresh flowers and experience the rejuvenative powers of nature to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (10th–16th May).
Mark Newey, founder, leading mental wellness education provider, Headucate, gives us the lowdown on why nature can ease stress, anxiety, and depression. He explained: “Humans have lived in nature for millions of years, it’s only in our recent history that we’ve spent more time inside at work and at home than outdoors.
“For people to thrive it’s essential we spend time with nature; it’s inherent within us to feel relaxed in our natural environment. Studies have proven that when we’re experiencing nature our blood pressure and heart rate is lowered, which makes our stress levels decrease, making us feel less anxious and much calmer.”
To be “at one” with nature Mark Newey, suggests the following top tips:
- Take a stroll through a beautiful woodland and practise the ancient Japanese art of shinrin-yoku, a forest bath. Use your five senses and spend time under the trees’ canopy, connect with nature and clear your mind. The Duchess of Cambridge is a fan of forest bathing and it is thought the activity can counter illnesses such as cancer, strokes, gastric ulcers, depression, anxiety, and stress.
- Bring the outdoors indoors. Furnish your home with pictures of the great outdoors, add zingy green plants to your living spaces or window boxes and diffuse a few drops of plant oils into the air to enhance your mood.
- Pull up the blinds and open the windows. Studies have proven that natural light decreases depression and for those working from home, natural light also boosts job satisfaction and enhances performance.
- Just step outside and take a fresh look at everything. In one study by Mind 95% said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed and stressed to calmer and more balanced. Step out into a local park, or take a walk by the beach.
- Pop on your hiking boots or jump on a paddleboard and get your adrenalin pumping and your endorphins (happy hormones) flooding through your body. A gym can be great, but its surrounds can also get a little boring, so make the most of the great outdoors, whether that be a local river, nearby sea or woodland.
Nature holds a potent cure for our mental well-being. From forest bathing to merely opening our blinds to allow the natural light in, every step taken to integrate nature into our lives can have a profound impact on our mental health. As we navigate our busy, often indoor-centric lives, let’s pledge to incorporate more of the outdoors into our daily routines.
Whether it’s a walk in the park, a moment of quiet in our green-filled rooms, or an adrenaline-rush outdoor adventure, these interactions with nature serve as gentle reminders of our inherent connection to the world around us. Thus, this year and beyond, let’s let nature be our sanctuary, our comfort, and our guide to improved mental wellness.