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How Nature Can Support Your Mental Health | Five Top Tips

Written by Jen Grange

George Fisher Ambassador Jen Grange is a mindfulness coach, forest bathing guide and Reiki practitioner whose organisation, Lakeland Well-being helps people to benefit from the healing power of nature.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a serious and damaging effect on the populations mental health, we asked Jen to offer her top ways to keep yourself mentally healthy in such an uncertain time.

The Coronavirus pandemic combined with the fear and uncertainty people have experienced over the last 6 months has significantly affected our stress levels and mental health. In fact, in the first 3 months of lockdown alone more than half of adults and two thirds of young people said their mental health had deteriorated.*1  So, with localised lockdowns and further uncertainly looming, what can you do to keep yourself well?

One way is to connect with nature. Just being in nature enhances our physical and mental health. The sound of birdsong can make us feel relaxed and safe, the trees emit essential oils that boost our immune systems. Research shows that by connecting with nature in a physical and emotional way, noticing and appreciating her beauty, we can significantly improve our happiness and sense of purpose in life.*2 

Here’s 5 things you can do to keep yourself well.

1. Firstly get outside. Even a walk around your local park will boost your circulation and mood.

2. Engage the senses – if you can get to a woodland, a beach or up a mountain, even better.

Look, as if seeing for the first time. Notice the trees, plants, sky, birds, take pleasure in the detail of patterns on a leaf/bark or watch an ant move across the floor, look up, look down.

Feel, the air on your skin, run your fingers through leaves, across the roughness of tree bark, feel sand under your bare feet.

Hear the birds singing, leaves rustling in the wind. Close your eyes, and see how many different sounds you can hear.

Smell the fresh air or the damp earth. Take deep breaths and fill your lungs.

Taste – only things you are familiar with e.g. blackberries, having an appreciation of how they grew and what nourished them, that now nourishes you. You can also taste the smell of the forest or sea by breathing through your mouth.

3. Notice beauty in nature, even in the small things. Perhaps the pattern on a petal or a leaf. Why not take a photograph and share it with friends. If something catches your attention, stop to experience it. Be curious.

4. Give yourself permission to stop and allow yourself time to just be. To breathe. You may like to sit by a tree or lie down on the grass. Look up at a tree canopy or the sky. Watch the branches move or the clouds drift by. Notice the pace of nature? Is it peaceful and calm or wild and windy? How does this make you feel?

5. Performing acts of kindness give us that feel good factor, so do something for nature today such as putting up a bird feeder in your garden, making a bug hotel, creating a compost heap, recycle, volunteer your time or donate to a conservation charity.

One of the most important things is to give yourself time out, to give yourself permission to stop and just ‘be’. When you are feeling stressed or need some headspace, why not try heading outdoors, and connecting with the nature around you. You might just find the peace and solace that you need!

Check out this great not-for-profit organisation Silent Spaces linking you up with spaces in nature where you can just sit and be.

Jen runs forest bathing, mindfulness in nature sessions and nature connection workshops in Cumbria. To find out more visit her website here Lakeland Well-being  Instagram - @lakelandwellbeing

*1 MIND June 2020 

*2 Capaldi et al. (2014) The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis Frontiers in Psychology.