How can nature help my mental health?
Written By Alison Ralph May 2021
This week is mental health awareness week and after being cooped up inside for the best part of a year its not surprising that the chosen theme is nature. There has been a huge emphasis this past year on getting out in nature and the importance of having your outdoor time. So does nature really help your mental health?
In this article I will be talking about:
- How and why nature helps with your mental health
- My favourite things to do in nature to help with your mental health
- The things you can do in and around Macclesfield if you are local to me that will help with your mental health
- I will also give you some links to great websites that talk about things to do in nature
An American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, once said “Study Nature, Love Nature, Stay close to Nature. It will never fail you”.
I love this quote and think it sums up our relationship with nature. If you think about it, our link with nature is deeply rooted within us from the beginning of time. Our ancestors would live in nature, gather and catch food to each and create their own tools and resources from the natural world around them. It is no wonder therefore that nature has a positive impact both mentally and physically on us human beings.
How can nature help my mental health?
Research is still on-going but it is thought that the smells of out-doors and the shapes of leaves and other visual elements from nature, as well as the parts of nature which engage our other senses trigger feel good reactions in the brain.
This is the reason that we might go for a walk when stressed or sit and listen to the sounds of nature to help us relax.
Nature can help us to be ‘in the moment’. When we are waling and appreciating the things around us it helps us to take out mind off the every day things that may be whirling about. People often say that they are going for a walk to ‘clear there mind’ or ‘to think’ and a walk is seen as a great way to improve mood. When we see the things in nature it helps us to relax and feel calm again.
It is not surprising then that if we are stressed or anxious, some time out in nature can help us to feel grounded and less stressed.
How does hypnotherapy use nature?
Within the treatment of hypnotherapy references to nature are often used because of their association with calm and relaxation.
Some hypnotherapists use calming sounds in their sessions such as the sound of the sea or the wind blowing through the trees.
Metaphors are often used in hypnotherapy because the imagination responds well to these. This might be asking a person who wants to gain confidence to imagine themselves as a strong tree or a flying eagle.
Another way nature is used in hypnotherapy is through guided imagery. For example, a person might be led through the ‘pathway of life’ if they are looking at past, present or future events.
What can I do in nature to help my mental health?
If you are looking for ideas of what to do to get involved with nature and feel the benefits, here are some of my favourites;
- Grow an indoor plant from seed and nurture it – If you are struggling with your mental health and it is affecting how you look after yourself, it can be useful to grow a plant from seed. Feed and water it, move it from a small pot to a larger one and prune it. As funny as this may sound, it can help you to begin looking after yourself again. Of course, this process can be rewarding for anyone. I always feel proud of myself when I have managed to grow something from seed. It gives me a good feeling!
- Go for a mindful walk– Go for a walk in nature but this time notice things that you haven’t seen before. A certain tree, how a neighbour’s garden on your walk has changed or the colours of a flower. If you live in the city and you are walking notice the areas that nature has survived or grown and appreciate how robust it actually is. I try and notice if someone has new flowers or hanging baskets in their garden and if they are new flowers to me.
- Sit by a pond or stream and listen to the water and the birds/ducks– the sound of water trickling through the rocks or the splash when a duck lands can both help us to feel relaxed. This is one of my favourite sounds and I’m sure I am not on my own!
- Exercise outdoors – Exercising outdoors can be extremely beneficial, not only are you breathing the fresh air into your lungs but you are also experiencing all the above ideas at the same time. One thing I love to do is go for power walks or runs in the outside world. I find it much more refreshing than the gym!
- Grow food with a group of people or just in your own outdoor space – find friends or even strangers to share a space with and grow food that you can then share. This not only improves confidence and self-esteem but helps you to have a much needed social connection with other humans. I love it when our rhubarb or strawberries are ready and we can just pick them and eat them fresh or stick them in a crumble. Yum!
- Connect with animals – this has to be my favourite. There is something special about seeing a fox or a deer or some other wildlife when you are outdoors. It can give you something different to focus on outside of your busy life and again, it is something you can enjoy with friends or family to boost your connection with others.
The best nature visits in Cheshire
If you are local to me then I thought I would share some of my favourite places for a nature visit in the Cheshire area and local to Macclesfield.
The first one is the lovely Sutton Reservoir. This has such a great walk around the outside of the reservoir. The walk is not too long and has benches dotted about as well as grassy areas where you can sit and enjoy the abundance of wildlife swimming in the water. A great place to go for a walk, run or picnic with family.
Another favourite of mine in Reedsmere, just outside of Macclesfield. Yet another place you can go for a short walk (although I’ve never actually done this one). We love standing by the water, feeding and listening to the ducks, geese and birds.
I would love to hear your favourites in the area so please comment on the article to let us know and…
If you would like more ideas for places to visit around the Cheshire area visit the East Cheshire Mumbler website – they have some great ideas and they are all tried and tested!
If you have been asking the question. How can nature help my mental health? then this article should have answered some questions for you and provided ideas to use nature to help with your mental health.
Try some of these ways suggested and start with the ones that are easier for you. Once you gain confidence you can experiment with other ideas. Find the ones that fit into your lifestyle and go with them!
Get in touch...
If you are struggling with your mental health and would like to find out how hypnotherapy could help you I am here to answer all of your questions.