This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Although we shouldn’t need a specific date to highlight important topics such as this one (we should be focusing on this all year round) it does make us stop and think about it more.
I’m excited that the theme this year is nature, specifically connecting with nature. These last twelve months particularly, spending more time outside (perhaps because we haven’t had any other choice) has been vital in helping many people through lockdown.
I’m not suggesting that a simple walk is the cure for all mental health problems but spending at least some time in the fresh air every day can help. Some people may previously not have even considered themselves to be ‘outdoorsy’ but have now discovered something wonderful.
In my latest blog, I outline 5 ways you can enjoy nature, perhaps just from your garden if you struggle to go further or at a local park, lake or other ‘green spot’. The great thing about nature is that to enjoy it, doesn’t have to cost us a penny.
Mental Health Awareness – 5 easy ways to connect with nature
1) Taking A Mindful Walk
Not only is walking an effective way of exercising your body but also your mind, providing a simple way to control your thoughts and learn to be present. Not only is walking an effective way of exercising your body but also your mind, providing a simple way to control your thoughts and learn to be present. I recently recorded a vlog about mindful walking, it’s only a couple of minutes if you have time to listen.
2) Forest Bathing
There’s so much I love about the great outdoors, it’s hard to know where to start! One of my favourite places at Wootton Park is being amongst the trees in the woods. We have a number of chairs placed in the area so both Glamping Pod and Wellness Retreats guests can do a spot of ‘forest bathing’.
Being in nature can help us feel good – the sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh clean air. Trees help us to ease our stress and worry, help us to relax and think more clearly. Being in nature can also restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.
3) Sun Meditation
I love meditating but there’s something very special about meditating outside. One of my favourites is a sun mediation, which I also encourage my team to do when they are working outside and the sun decides to pay a visit!
The sunning meditation takes a minute and a half – stand outside, face the sun with closed eyes (very important) and imagine the sun coming into your brain and stimulating the pineal gland and then your thyroid. This particular meditation helps stimulates melatonin and serotonin so you can sleep better at night.
You’re not limited to connecting with nature during the day. Stargazing is a fantastic activity to do once the sun has gone down and just taking in the vastness of the star-filled sky can really help you connect with nature.
It’s a wonderful family or team activity and it doesn’t get boring as the sky never looks the same! It’s fascinating learning to read the stars or track the ever changing shape of the moon. Stargazing is an effective stress reliever. This photo was taken at our Wellness Retreat (pre-Covid of course) and was a huge hit with the group.
5) Gardening, growing flowers or planting a tree
Whether you have a big garden or a few potted plants, it encourages you to get outside. Gardening is not only good exercise but is a wonderful stress reliever. Pottering around the garden really does help you connect with nature, you’ll notice the chirping of the birds, armies of insects busy going about their day or bees buzzing around collecting nectar. Being outside in this way naturally helps us become more mindful, to stop and appreciate what is all around us. You could even try growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs. It’s not only cheaper and better for you then shop bought produce but will also encourage you to eat more of the good stuff!
Planting flowers and if you’re feeling really adventurous trees is also wonderfully rewarding. Trees not only give off oxygen but provide shelter and food for many species of wildlife. We recently planted 2,800 trees at Wootton Park as part of a larger rewilding project but don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you do that!
These are just some ideas that we enjoy doing. Some we incorporate into our wellness retreats and others we do as a matter of course. All can help you feel more connected to nature, a proven way to help relieve stress and help us feel more positive.