• Vicky Taylor

Mental Health Awareness Week.

Monday 10th May – Sunday 16th May marks Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual event which first began 21 years ago by the Mental Health Foundation. Each year focuses on a different theme, with this year’s theme being Nature.

Mental Health Awareness week is open to everyone and is an opportunity for us to focus our attention on our mental health and wellbeing. It’s an opportunity for us to begin open conversations with others about our mental health, to discuss the things in our daily lives which can affect us and the ways we can support our mental health and wellbeing.

According to research by the National Centre for Social Research, on average 1 in 4 people experience difficulties relating to their mental health with the current Covid-19 pandemic having a significant impact on our mental health as increased numbers of individuals experience depression, anxiety, trauma, isolation and loss.

During the past 18 months many of us have turned to nature to support our mental health and wellbeing, with research from the Mental Health Foundation showing that 45% of people felt that accessing green spaces has been vital for their mental health with 4 in 10 people saying that being in nature has helped to reduce feelings of anxiety, worry and isolation. Additionally, over 50% of UK adults said that they have not only spent more time in nature but that they have been noticing and connecting more with nature each day, this may include stopping to listen to the birdsong, noticing trees, flowers or animals nearby or in our local area or taking a moment to appreciate, open ourselves up to and interact with nature. For many, during national and local lockdowns, nature has played a vital role in supporting our mental health and whilst we recognise that nature can’t solve all our problems it can help to support our mental health on a day – day basis. Taking a moment to see, hear or feel nature can help to bring a feeling of calm, joy or wonder and can help to reduce feelings of stress or pressure.

For many of us being in or connecting with nature may not be as easy as it sounds, therefore, the Mental Health Foundation have developed their top tips of ways we can bring nature into our everyday lives and how we can build our own connections with nature, these include:

Bringing nature to you: At times, due to where we live, how we feel or our health it may be difficult to access natural places, therefore, it may be helpful to consider ways of bringing nature into our home including house plants or herbs or creating a bird feeder for outside of our window.

Connect with nature using all of our senses: Using each of our senses to connect with our natural surroundings can be a real boost to our mental health. Whether you’re relaxing in your garden or on your way to work, try to listen out for birdsong, look out for wildlife around us or notice the movement of the clouds. Each of these can help us to feel more grounded in the present moment and the environment around us and can support in bringing a sense of calm and joy.

Exercise in nature: If you’re physically able to exercise you may wish to try to do so outside, whether that’s a walk or a short run or cycle, exercising outside can help to reduce feelings of anger and tiredness. Whilst out try to bring your attention to the natural sounds you hear around you. If it feels daunting to go outside at present, try asking a friend or relative to join you, pick somewhere you are familiar with and have previously visited and start off slowly, building up to further distances at a pace and time that feels comfortable for you.

For more top tips on connecting with nature visit the Mental Health Foundation website here.

In addition, for Mental Health Awareness Week this year, WWF and the Mental Health Foundation have joined forces to develop a free guidebook Thriving with Nature which explores the relationship between nature, wellbeing and mental health. For more information on this please visit the WWF website here or The Mental Health Foundation website here.

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