Are you harnessing the power of nature for mental health and wellbeing?
We are spending more time online and indoors. But there’s a considerable body of evidence pointing to nature being good for our mental and physical health. Spending time in nature lowers our stress levels, makes us feel more positive, increases our ability to concentrate, and lowers our blood pressure.
Nature is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May 2021). Mark Rowland, the Mental Health Foundation’s CEO notes from their research that walks in nature and being in green spaces have been the nation’s top mental health coping strategy during the pandemic, which is why they chose the theme for this year’s Awareness Week.
What impact does nature have on mental wellbeing?
- improve your mood
- reduce feelings of stress or anger
- help you take time out and feel more relaxed
- improve your confidence and self-esteem
- help you be more active and improve physical health
- help you make new connections
How can you make the most of nature for mental health?
Dr Hazel Harrison, Clinical Psychologist at Elevate, looks at our relationship with nature as a pyramid, building on the work of Tim Beatley – the small, daily interactions with the natural world forming the foundation, and bigger experiences such as journeys to the beach or hikes into the countryside completing our relationship with nature.
She sees it as important to have daily access to those micro-interactions with nature, alongside more immersive experiences that help give your wellbeing the big boost it needs to continue being healthy.
How can you use this in your office or home to support your mental wellbeing?
Dr Harrison calls the foundations of the nature pyramid ‘nature snacks’ – those tiny actions we can all take on a day-to-day basis:
- Looking out of the window
- Taking in some fresh air
- Taking care of our office plants
Planning in access to those opportunities will come more easily for some people than others. Not everyone has access to a view from their window. Not everyone works in an office with greenery to tend. But having these routine interactions is so vital to mental health, that Dr Harrison suggests being creative about finding ways to make them part of your day.
Could you take a 2 minute break at the window on the way back from making tea at home or work? Could you find somewhere outdoors to take your lunch? Is there a tiny plant you could have on your desk? Could you adjust your route to the office to take in a green space that gives you a boost? If you’re continuing to work from home, how can you incorporate these experiences as part of your working day?
Immerse yourself to recharge your wellbeing
We also need more immersive experiences in nature – what Dr Harrison calls our ‘meals’, ‘banquets’ and ‘feasts’. These might be a carefully planned expedition to see one of the wonders of the world, a day trip to an environment where you can completely lose yourself in continuous time in nature, or a family outing at the weekend to a beautiful countryside gem.
The activities themselves will vary person-to-person, but what they should all share is that they leave you feeling boosted.
Mental Health Awareness Week
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 10th to 16th May. You can access all the resources from the Mental Health Foundation here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/mental-health-awareness-week
Dr Hazel Harrison is running a session for Elevate on the Power of Nature for existing Elevate clients – please get in touch to learn more and book your place.