3 ways to incorporate nature into your life this Mental Health Awareness Week

Category: News

The Mental Health Foundation’s annual Mental Health Awareness Week takes place next month, from 10 to 16 May. The theme this year is “nature”.

While the links between nature and mental wellbeing are widely acknowledged, they are not necessarily understood.

With 70% of humans currently living in an urban environment, how do we reconcile our need for nature with our increasing urbanisation? And what can you do to embrace nature and improve your wellbeing this Mental Health Awareness Week?

Keep reading to find out.

Get out into nature – wherever you live

In 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released its “Urban green spaces: a brief for action” report. Aimed at local-level planners and organisations, it aimed to encourage the inclusion of green spaces in urban planning.

The report lists some of the reasons why green space is important in urban areas. These include:

  • Giving urban residents the chance to experience nature
  • Maintaining biodiversity
  • Reducing air pollution and noise
  • Enhancing the quality of urban living
  • Improving the health and wellbeing of urban residents.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused us all to look at our green spaces differently.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures confirm that one in eight British households don’t have a garden.

Research from Cardiff University and Cardiff Metropolitan University recently looked at the impact the pandemic has had on mental health, specifically looking at differing experiences for those with and without a garden or nearby park.

Those with access to green space were “more likely to say they were feeling calm, peaceful and had a lot of energy” compared to those who were unable to access nature.

There are plenty of different ways to get out into the natural world

1. Take a daily walk

A daily walk is a great way to get exercise, fresh air, and vitamin D. If you have local green spaces, you’ll probably have made the most of them during the last twelve months.

If you have grown tired of your usual haunts, try finding alternative routes, walking your usual route backward, or simply slowing down, experiencing the sights and sounds around you as you go.

With restriction lifting, you might want to venture further afield. You might also find that setting yourself a challenge can be a great way to ensure you get out and walk regularly.

Back in October, we looked at 5 great National Trust properties to visit this autumn and with spring upon us, now is a great time to get out and explore again. The National Trust has beautiful properties and grounds all over the country worth a visit, as does Forestry England.

Give yourself a daily step target and then find out how beautiful surroundings can make your challenge that much easier.

2. Consider a walking staycation

The UK has some stunning and varied scenery – from hills and mountains to marshes and moorlands – and one of the best ways to experience them is on foot.

There are 16 National Trails to explore in England and Wales, totalling over 2,500 miles of footpaths and bridleways. There are a further 29 routes through Scotland, known as “Scotland’s Great Trails”.

With many of us planning UK holidays this year, using your free time to plan a walking holiday could be a great way to get out into nature.

With points of interest along all the trails, you don’t need to complete one in its entirety. Set yourself up at a suitable base and head out on your own, walking circular routes around the local area.

You’ll get exercise, a mental health boost, and give your support to a local economy after a difficult year for small businesses.

3. Take to your garden with these great books about the British countryside

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, be sure to make the most of any periods of good weather by heading outside with a good book.

Literature has many classics that celebrate the beauty of the British landscape. Consider the evocations of a Slad Valley childhood in Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale of resurgent nature, The Secret Garden.

More recently, Richard Mabey’s Weeds: The Story of Outlaw Plants explores the history of “plants in the wrong place.” And Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path – a 75-week Sunday Times bestseller – provides a life-affirming memoir about the healing power of nature.

Finally, Robert MacFarlane has won numerous awards, including the Wainwright nature writing prize. He has explored the British Isles, from its drove roads and ancient tracks in The Old Ways to its forgotten wildernesses in The Wild Places.

Why not explore nature from your own garden and be transported this Mental Health Awareness Week?