Its Mental Heath Awareness week and the theme this year is Nature, which is so central to our psychological and emotional health. By having a greater connection to the natural world your life will benefit in so many ways.
All of us will struggle with mental health in one way or another during our lives. The last twelve months have shown this by tested each and everyone of us due to coronavirus.
For me growing up nature was the most beautiful thing, it was my salvation in many ways from seeing my mum suffering from breast cancer when I was twelve.
Sadly after a few years of beating this horrible disease it returned when I was fifteen. That second battle my mum bravely fought was too much and she sadly passed away having fought to the very end.
Nature during these lost years of my childhood as I call them was everything and those troubles and worries went away during that time I spent in nature. Over the decades that traumatic event followed me through my life without me even knowing.
Then other events as a soldier, leaving the army and being homeless, struggling to adjust to civilian life and other events I’ve gone through just added to that traumatic event effecting my own mental health.
Being open and vulnerable is being strong I firmly believe. In the case of my own battles with trauma it is through being open about my struggles and talking to those willing to listen that I have found an outlet to express my pain and move forward constructively and successfully.
We are all traumatised by life, some of us from wrongdoings, others by unprocessed pain and sidelined emotions. Healing is our responsibility because if it isn’t, an unfair circumstance becomes an unlived life. We are not meant to get through life unscathed. We are not meant to get to the finish line unscarred.
Life hurts us all in different ways, but it is how we respond and who we become that determines whether a trauma becomes a tragedy, or the beginning of the story of how the person begins to start to live again.
Mental health is incredibly important and I’m really glad it’s been spoken about more now. So those suffering know there is help out there once they take that important first step of telling someone.
Nature is incredible and has the power to heal us in many different ways. For most of human history, we lived as part of nature. It is only in the last five or so generations that so many of us have lived and worked largely separated from nature.
It is only since a 1960’s study that found that patients who were treated in hospitals with a view of nature recovered faster, that science has started to unpack the extraordinary health benefits.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, The Mental Health Foundation have come up with some amazing tips that will help you connect with nature :
1. Find nature wherever you are
Nature is all around us. It might be a garden, a local park, a nearby beach or open countryside. Even in cities where nature can be harder to find, there’s things community gardens or courtyards to discover and explore. Look out for the unexpected – an urban fox on your way out for the early shift, changes in the weather or birdsong outside your window. Try to notice nature wherever you are, in whatever way is meaningful for you.
2. Connect with nature using all of your senses.
Taking some quiet time to reflect in natural surroundings using all your senses can be a real boost to your mental health. Whether you’re relaxing in the garden or on your way to work, try listening out for birdsong, look for bees and butterflies, or notice the movement of the clouds. All of these good things in nature can help you to find a sense of calm and joy.
3. Get out into nature
If you can, try to spend time visiting natural places – green spaces like parks, gardens or forests – or blue spaces like the beach, rivers and wetlands. This can help you reduce your risk of mental health problems, lift your mood and help you feel better about things. If it feels daunting to get outside, try going with a friend or relative, or picking somewhere familiar.
4. Bring nature to you
Sometimes it’s hard to access natural places because of where you live, how busy you are, how safe you feel or your health. Why not try bringing nature into your home? Having plants in the house is a great way to have something natural to see, touch and smell – pots of herbs from the supermarket are a good start.
If you have a garden, allotment or balcony, think about how you can make the most of it. Grow flowers, plants or vegetables, get a bird feeder and take in the sights and sounds around you. If planting isn’t your thing, you can also connect to nature through stories, art and sound recordings. Watching films or TV programmes about nature are also great way to connect with and reflect on nature.
5. Exercise in nature
If you’re physically able to exercise, try to do it outside – whether it’s a run, cycle or a short walk. Walking or running outdoors in nature may help to prevent or reduce feelings of anger, tiredness and sadness. Try leaving the headphones at home – unless you’re listening to nature sounds of course! Or why not try new routes that bring you closer to green spaces or water?
6. Combine nature with creativity
Try combining creativity with your natural environment. This could involve taking part in creative activities outside, like dance, music, or art. All of these things can help reduce stress and improve your mood. You could also increase your sense of connection by taking photos, writing, drawing or painting pictures of the landscape, plants or animals. Noticing the beauty of nature and expressing this creatively can help you find meaning and an emotional connection to nature that will stay with you for a lifetime.
7. Protect nature
Taking care of something can be a really great way to feel good. And what better thing to take care of than nature. Nature is truly amazing – do what you can to look after nature – in your actions and choices. This can be as simple as recycling, to walking instead of driving, or even joining community conservation or clean-up groups. Taking care of nature can help you feel that you’re doing your part, and that can make you feel more positive all round.
I hope this has all helped those reading that are suffering in anyway. It’s good to talk as the saying goes and nature is really the best way to heal you.
For anyone that needs help or advice after reading this post then please contact me by using this link.