Each year we dedicate an entire week to Mental Health Awareness, as your mental health determines how you think, feel, relate to others, make choices and how you handle the everyday pressures and stresses of life. This year, Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme is nature.
In line with this, we want to give you our top 5 ideas on how to incorporate nature into your daily life and how we can use the natural environment around us to help us improve and look after our mental health.
1. Go for a walk
It may sound simple, but going for a walk is one of the easiest and best ways to use nature for your mental wellbeing. Walking releases endorphins in the body which will lighten your mood, and you can expect an extra dose when walking somewhere in nature, such as through a field, by the beach or through a forest. Walking also has many other benefits that can indirectly improve your mental health, such as weight loss, stronger muscles, improved sleep and healthy joints.
If you are ready to go for a walk, check out the Walking Britain website to see the best walks near you!
2. Grow some plants
A study by a Dutch University recently found that gardening is one of the best hobbies to combat stress and improve overall mental health. Not only will it get you outside in the sun and increase your exposure to vitamin D, but it will also boost your happy hormones, increase your strength, stamina and flexibility, but also combat loneliness, as there are many collaborative gardening projects that join people together.
If you don’t have access to a private or public gardening space, fear not, as planting and growing houseplants have a very similar effect! A study recently published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that houseplants can make you feel more comfortable, soothed and relaxed. The researchers also found that looking after houseplants can increase feelings of well-being among people with depression, anxiety, dementia, and other conditions.
If you are interested in growing plants in your home, check out Patch for the 10 best indoor plants!
3. Get creative
By now you should know that we absolutely love arts, crafts and all sorts of creative projects at Happy Futures, so what better way than to look after our mental health than by adding nature to our creativity?
Through creativity, you can see and appreciate the beauty of nature, which will increase your sense of connectedness and overall wellbeing. So next time you are feeling a bit stressed, down or depressed, grab your camera and take pictures of wild flowers, or try painting with twigs, leaves and feathers!
4. Connect with your senses
One of the best ways to promote self care is to take time to yourself, especially when you can spend that time in nature. Next time you are taking some time to yourself, go outside and put your senses to work. Can you feel the sunshine on your face and the wind rustling your hair? Can you hear the birds chirping, and can you see any butterflies or birds in the garden? Try to notice the smell of the grass and flowers in the air and if you have a herb garden, taste some of the leaves.
By stimulating your senses, you can reduce your stress levels, lower your blood pressure and find a lot of delight in all the wonderful things in nature around us. This also goes hand in hand with the concept of grounding!
5. Take care of nature
There has never been a better time than now to start caring for our environment. Over the last 50 years, the world’s wildlife population has decreased by 68% and there is no sign of it slowing down if we do not make radical changes to our day to day lives now. Although recycling, conscious buying and sustainable practices help, it is important to get out and join local conservation groups. Not only will this give you more chance to socialise and combat loneliness, increase your fitness, expose you to more vitamin D and help you explore more of your local area, it will also make you feel good about yourself and the amazing work you are doing to protect nature.
If you are based in Yorkshire, check out the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website for more information on volunteering programmes, events and lots of useful information to help you protect wildlife in Yorkshire!