Mental Health Awareness Week – Nature

Written by Leanne Haywood a MSc Psychological Wellbeing and Mental Health Student & Student Mental Health Champion 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is nature. Nature has so many benefits for our mental health and my research interests are centred around improving mental health and wellbeing through access to nature and natural environments.  

Nature can improve our wellbeing in many ways. Research has found it can help improve self-esteem, reduce loneliness, improve social support, improve relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and have a host of benefits on our physical health too! For Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to share a few ways we can all improve our access to nature to have positive effects on our mental health.  

  1. Engage with nature 

When spending time in nature make sure to engage with it. Use all your senses to experience the nature around you. Taking photos in nature is a great option, as your engaging more finding things to photograph. Taking notice of insects and wildlife, stopping to smell the flowers or listening to birdsong are all great ways to engage more deeply with nature. If you live in a big city there are some great hidden nature gems, like the arboretum in Nottingham where you can surround yourself in nature. Local parks, gardens, courtyards or beaches are all great sources to enjoy nature and help boost your mental wellbeing.  Check our these PDF mindfulness walks around Arboretum and Brackenhurst Gardens too!

  1. Bring nature to you 

Gardening is a great way to engage with nature and improve mental health. Gardening can also help to provide insects and wildlife with essential food sources, what could be better than that! Even if you don’t have access to a garden there are some great community garden projects all over the country you can volunteer at. Alternatively, if you live in a flat or have no garden, houseplants or windowsill garden boxes are great options, you could even grow herbs to use in cooking! 

  1. Exercise in nature 

Exercise has great benefits on wellbeing so why not combine exercise with getting out into nature! Walking, running or cycling are all great sources of exercise and could be combined with being out in nature to help improve mental health. Exercise in nature can have many benefits including making us feel less tired, improve mood and reduce negative feelings. Try to choose routes where you’ll come into contact with lots of nature, even a local park, countryside or green space if you can and take notice of the nature around you whilst exercising, listening out for the sounds of nature.  

  1. Bringing nature into the everyday 

Combining hobbies and interests with nature can really help our mental health and our creativity. From painting and drawing outdoors to writing or reading are all good options and can help reduce stress and improve mood. Combining activities with nature can also improve our connection with the natural environment and give a real health boost. 

Now more than ever it is important to look after our mental health and talk about it with those around us. Why not take some time during Mental Health Awareness Week to experience nature and see how it could help boost your mental health….. the best part? Nature is free and all around us! Why not give it a go! 

To find out more about Mental Health Awareness and this year’s theme head to the Mental Health Foundation

For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.

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