Nature and Mental Health (MHAW 10th-16th May)
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) and this year’s theme is Nature!
It has been proven that being in nature improves the health of our minds. The Mental Health Foundation carried out research showing that nearly half of people in the UK (45%) said that it was going outdoors that helped them cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. And almost two-thirds of people said being close to nature helped them to feel positive emotions such as joy, calm, and creativity. They said it helped reduce stress and anxiety. The Mental Health Foundation also pays special focus to the amount you ‘connect’ with nature having a real effect on the health of your mind. They found through a poll taken that the more a person felt connected to nature they experienced lower levels of poor mental health, in particular anxiety and depression.
So how do you connect with nature? Use your senses! Lie down in a park, close your eyes and listen to the birdsong, or feel the grass under your bare feet, smell the flowers or look at how vast the sea is and watch the waves crashing on the rocks. Take time to experience nature and activate all of your senses.
Spending time in nature can be a variety of different things such as going to a nearby beach, walking through a forest, hiking up the Mourne Mountains, going for a sea swim, planting in your garden, or having a BBQ outside. It can also simply mean taking notice of the trees planted in your street, taking time to focus on breathing in fresh air when walking your dog in the park, or admiring your neighbour’s garden. It can be organising a football game in a nearby field or a game of rounders in a park. Nature can even be accessed from your home such as growing an indoor plant or watching a nature documentary. Everyone can find a way to enjoy nature!
You may have had to work from home this past year, and have perhaps found there to be many mental health benefits, such as cutting out the stressful traffic-filled commute from your day, seeing your family or partner more and spending lunchtime together, or feel more relaxed and that you are achieving more. Or you may have experienced a lot of negatives with it as well such as the feeling of constantly being in a confined space, isolated from people, seeing the same four walls all day, or your balance of work and rest has been disrupted. Maybe your favourite comfy sofa has now become your office chair, and you are now finding it hard to switch off work-mode in your brain when trying to watch your favourite show that night. It is important, now more than ever, that we try to add nature to our daily or weekly routines so to help lift our moods, stay active, and keep our minds healthy!
In Northern Ireland, we are spoilt for choice for nature trails, beaches, forest parks, mountains, and waterfalls. Check out Discover Northern Ireland, National Trust NI, and Walk Ni websites to browse the many different places you can go to marvel at our country’s stunning nature.
Why not plan one for this weekend to mark MHAW? Pack a picnic and if you like to draw, take photographs, write poetry or journal then take all the supplies you need with you. Perhaps bring a friend or a family member and take time to talk, walk and enjoy!
You deserve to take some time for yourself in nature, and to experience the positive mental health benefits that will come with it!
What does AWARE offer to help me connect with Nature this MHAW week?
The AWARE 25 Challenge:
To celebrate our 25th anniversary, and to help us ensure that we are here for another 25 years, we are inviting you to take part in The AWARE 25 Challenge. This challenge is for any individual or group fundraising challenge in support of AWARE that incorporates the number 25. This is a fantastic opportunity to get active outside and enjoy nature whilst helping AWARE to support those living with mental ill-health in Northern Ireland. Examples include run/walk 5k a day for 25 days, run 2.5 miles every day for 25 days, or invent one of your own! Find out how to take part by clicking here!Tags: AWARE | Depression | Mental Health | mental health awareness week | mental health awareness week 2021 | mhaw 2021 | nature | Northern Ireland