Connect with nature


Today marks the launch of Mental Health Awareness Week, the UK's national week, to raise mental health awareness.

This year the theme is Nature and the Environment. During long months of lockdown, many of us turned to nature - taking long walks, gardening or just watching the birds in the trees from our living rooms to get through the uncertainty.

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, explains why nature is the theme for this year's campaign. He said: "In the first lockdown, I called an elderly friend. She lives alone and had recently had a fall. Separated from her community, she had lost all in-person contact. When I asked her how she had got through it, she told me it was taking daily comfort from watching the birds sing to each other on the fence and the flower re-emerge from the frosts of winter.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of us turned to nature to help us get through lockdowns. Our research shows that good mental health depends on us being able to connect with nature in some way and its power in both prevention of and recovery from poor mental health," said Mark Rowland.

Research by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that going for walks outside was one of the top coping strategies during the pandemic, and 45% of people reported being in green spaces had been vital for their mental health. Wider studies also found that people spent more time in nature during lockdowns and noticed it more too.

Here are some top tips on connecting with nature to improve your mental health:

Find nature wherever you are

It's all around us - it might be your garden, your plants in your home, the countryside or your local park. Even in cities, there are hidden gardens and community parks that can be enjoyed. Keep an eye out for nature, too - listen out for birds outside your window, notice the change in weather or notice the bugs in your garden.

Connect with nature using all of your senses

Take time to reflect in natural surroundings. You might be relaxing in your garden or daydreaming out your bedroom window - listen out for birds, bees and butterflies or notice the movement of the clouds. They will help you feel calm and joyful.

Get out into nature

If you can, visit places like parks, gardens or forests or beaches and rivers. Getting out into the fresh air will do you a world of good. If you struggle to get out on your own, asked a loved one to help you. Have a picnic outside with your grandchildren, even if it's in your garden.

Bring nature to you

If you struggle to get outside, why not try bringing nature into your home? Having plants in the house is wonderful for your mental health and will make your environment homier. Just remember to water them regularly. If you have a garden, grow flowers, plants or vegetables or get a bird feeder so that you can hear them every morning when you wake up. If your health means you cannot get into gardening connect with nature through stories, art, films or TV - a David Attenborough documentary is always a winner!

Exercise in nature

If you can exercise, try to do it outside - whether it's a run or a short walk. The fresh air and being out in an open space will make you feel better. Instead of listening to music, leave your headphones at home and listen to the nature around you. Or try walking/running a different route than you usually do and see if you notice anything different along your way.

Combine nature with creativity

Try being creative with nature - you could draw or paint what you can see outside. You could take photos, go bird-watching or even write about nature. Anything creative you can connect with nature is a great way to help reduce stress and improve mood.

Protect nature

Taking care of our environment is a great way to feel good - it could be by recycling, walking instead of driving or even joining community conservation groups. Do your part to care for nature and feel more positive about your surroundings.


Our top tips on connecting with nature to improve your mental health | Mental Health Foundation