Alison Ralph

Can nature help my mental health?

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. 

An American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, once said “Study Nature, Love Nature, Stay close to Nature. It will never fail you”.

If you think about it, our link with nature is deeply rooted within us from the beginning of time so it is no wonder it has a positive impact both mentally and physically. 

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. 

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. I 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Grow food with a group of people – 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. 
  • 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. 
yellow spring time flowers

What are you waiting for? Get out into nature and notice the benefits for you. Maybe keep a diary to show how you felt that day and if it was different to other days where you hadn’t ventured outdoors. Get creative and enjoy the freedom!

Written by Alison Ralph

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