Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme is Nature
The 10-16th May 2021 is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme is nature. This is particularly pertinent as this year, with the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, many of us have turned to nature to support our wellbeing. In fact, it has been proven that connecting with nature benefits mental health in many ways.
According to Age UK, one in three older people says that their anxiety has worsened over the course of the pandemic. In addition, the proportion of over 70’s experiencing depression has doubled since the start of the pandemic. Of course, there are many reasons for this, and nature cannot solve all these problems. However, spending time in nature has been proven to help mental health and wellbeing, so it is well worth considering the positive impact it can have on our lives.
The connection between mental health and nature was first examined in the 1960s when a study found that patients in hospital recovered faster when they had a view of nature from their window. Later studies focused on a practice called Forest Bathing in Japan and found that spending time in the forest could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. The studies were so convincing that the Japanese government incorporated Forest Bathing into the country’s health programme.
Since then, the benefits of nature have been studied across the world with many finding outstanding benefits from even a few minutes in nature.
How nature benefits mental health
Here are some of the ways that nature benefits mental health.
Reduce stress levels
Research has suggested that spending 20 to 30 minutes in nature three times a week can reduce levels of stress hormones. Another study found that just ten minutes in nature can improve your mood and reduce the symptoms of physical and mental stress.
Improve your sleep
Being outdoors can improve your sleep, helping you get off to sleep more easily and improving your sleep quality. Researchers think that natural light helps to reset our circadian rhythms which regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Being outside in natural light can also help people who suffer from depression in the winter months.
Studies have also suggested that walking in nature can reduce rumination and worry – calming and soothing the mind. Interestingly, the study found that the walk had to be in nature rather than an urban environment to have this effect.
Boost your mood
Being in nature can boost positive feelings and reduce negative emotions such as worry or anger. Being in nature can also make you feel alert and energized. Getting out in nature has also been shown to boost self-esteem and improve confidence.
Helping you be more active
Being outside generally helps us to be more active. We are more likely to live a healthy active lifestyle if we spend some time outdoors each week than if we are always at home.
Easy ways to incorporate more nature time in your life
With such clear evidence that nature benefits mental health, it’s well worth spending more time in nature if you can. You don’t need to find a forest or river or go on a long trek – there are many easy ways to incorporate nature into your life.
Spend time in a park or garden
If you are lucky enough to have a garden it is easy to get some time in nature each day. As well as simply sitting or walking in the garden, you could feed the birds, plant flowers that encourage butterflies and look out for creatures such as hedgehogs and foxes at night. If you don’t have a garden, perhaps you could take a trip to a nearby park or green space a few times a week.
Bring the outside in
For situations when it is not possible to get out in nature, you can always bring nature inside. Try growing some houseplants or potted herbs on the windowsill. You could also scent your home with natural fragrances such as lavender or jasmine. Buying some fresh flowers each week is an easy way to bring nature indoors in all its glory. You could also make a table to display natural found objects such as pine cones, pretty pebbles, fossils or feathers. Perhaps you could even invest in a small indoor water fountain to enjoy the natural sound of trickling water.
Create natural experiences
We are so lucky to have easy access to a wide range of technologies that can help us feel closer to nature. You could watch a nature documentary, read a book or listen to an audiobook about nature. Many talented naturalists have made stunning TV programmes and written immersive books that allow us to take an adventure in nature without even leaving our armchair.
You could also display pictures and photos of nature on your walls or listen to natural sounds such as birdsong, whale song or crashing waves.
How a Mumby’s carer can help you enjoy nature and its benefits on your mental health
At Mumby’s, we aim to ensure each of our clients lives a healthy and fulfilling life, maintaining their independence as much as possible. As well as helping with chores and care, a Mumby’s carer can help you to enjoy getting out and about in nature regularly. Our carers can even help with light garden maintenance or taking care of a pet.