The mental health benefits of nature

Saturday, May 15, 2021

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme ‘Nature and the Environment’, we have created a blog about how nature can benefit your mental health, both in your home and outdoors.

 

How can nature benefit your mental health?

Spending time out in nature or bringing nature into your home can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. Something as simple as growing some seeds in your garden or home or exercising outdoors can have lots of positive effects such as:

● Boosting your mood

● Reducing the feeling of stress or anger

● Improving your physical health

● Boosting your self-esteem

● Helping you to feel more relaxed

According to multiple studies, researchers have found a link between access to green spaces and a reduced risk of mental health problems. Spending time in green spaces have been proven to boost your mood and increased life satisfaction.

If you’re looking for ideas of how to get out in nature, our sponsored charity of the year Mind has put together a list of ideas to try. Click here to find out more.

 

How to make the most of nature in your community

Below is a list of ways of how you can make the most of nature in your community and your home, regardless of your living situation.

 1. Create a growing space

If you don’t have access to a garden, you could always plant some salad or herb leaves indoors. Some plants thrive better in warmer conditions meaning you can still grow edible plants and use them in your cooking and baking. Another option is to grow plants with other people. You can apply to share an allotment or look for a community garden. See the National Allotment Society and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens websites for more information.

 2. Bring nature inside

There are many ways you can bring nature into your home to benefit your mental health. Try collecting natural materials such as leaves, flowers, tree bark or seeds. All of these items can be placed around your home, used to create a collage, or even plant the seeds and flowers in your room. Another option is to take photos of your favourite nature spots. You can use these photos as backgrounds on your phone or computer. You can also print the photos and hang them around your home.

3. Make the most of digital technology

Both Netflix and Amazon Prime offer many series and movies dedicated to nature and the environment. If you want to bring nature into your home there are plenty of films, series and documentaries about the history, science and benefits of nature. YouTube and Podcasts provide a great opportunity to listen to nature. Some of the recordings are relaxing animal sounds that can help to reduce stress and create a calm environment. Listening to natural sounds and green environments have been linked with relaxation. You can learn more about why listening to nature helps you to relax here.

4. Get active outdoors 

There are many activities you can do outdoors. A simple walk in your local park or around where you live can give you a break from screens and reduce your stress levels. If the weather is suitable, you can have a picnic outdoors with your friends or family. This is a great way to see other people whilst keeping safe and socially distanced. There are many exercise clubs for walking and rambling. See the Walking for Health and Ramblers websites for more information.

 5. Spend time with animals.

Bird watching provides an intimate connection between people and nature. It allows us to switch off from the modern world and get back into nature, even if it's from the inside of your home. Birdwatching is simple, and anyone can do it. Whether you choose to watch birds from the comfort of your home or out in nature, it’s a perfect way to relax.

Spending time with animals has been proven to reduce stress and boost your mood. If you don’t have any pets, you could always dog-sit for a friend once restrictions lift, or you could go out for a walk with a friend and their dog. Another great option is to go to your local community farm or park. Both of these places usually have farm animals or wild animals living in the area. These are great places to spend the day with loved ones and be around nature.

 

How to overcome barriers that stop you from connecting with nature

Some people may face barriers that might stop them from connecting with nature. For example, you may know someone who finds it difficult to spend time in an unfamiliar area, or perhaps they get tired easily or have difficulty doing physical activities. The charity, Mind has created a list of their top tips and suggestions to try if you or someone you know struggles to get out into nature.

 1. Start small

Try spending as little as five minutes paying attention to nature in your everyday life. Even small amounts of time can give your wellbeing a boost.

 2. Do things you find relaxing

Try to spend some time relaxing in a comfortable area outside, perhaps sit under a tree and read a book or do some drawing in natural surroundings.  

3. Ask for support

If you feel anxious in new places or social situations, you could ask someone you trust to go with you at first. If you're joining a formal ecotherapy programme, you could ask if a staff member or group leader can meet you beforehand.

4. Work with your highs and lows

Consider which times of day you feel most energised, and when you find things harder. You might want to avoid times of day when side effects of any medication you take seem to cause more problems for you.

5. Bring nature indoors

If going outside isn’t possible or feels difficult at the moment, you could explore ways of bringing nature indoors. See the tips listed above for ideas of how to bring nature into your home.

6. Plan ahead

Check the weather forecast and think about any equipment you might find useful, like warm or waterproof clothing, sun protection or a map. 

 

Many fantastic organisations can offer you support if you are struggling with mental health problems. For more professional help, you can contact Samaritans, NHS helpline and Mind.

If you're interested in joining our team of healthcare professionals, register with us here and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.