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Connecting with Nature for Mental Health Awareness Week

As we head for what should be the hottest of our seasons, stepping out into nature is perhaps becoming a more welcome activity after what has seemed a particularly long winter. As the sun pokes out through the clouds and tickles the senses with a longed-for warmth I wonder if you are feeling a greater sense of wellbeing?

Each season offers its own natural beauty. The transitional seasons of Autumn and Spring see the colours of the trees burst and change giving out a sense of anticipation of the next season to come. In Winter, a frost can make a landscape glisten and shine. The summer sun brightens any natural space and lights up the colours of the flowers and leaves.

21 years ago, The Mental Health Foundation started Mental Health Awareness Week with the purpose of drawing society’s focus toward the subject over the week.

Since then it has grown to become one of the most well-known awareness weeks in the calendar, with charities, businesses, initiatives and individuals pulling together to raise awareness for mental health and encourage further investigation and a deeper understanding of the topic.

This year Mental Health Awareness Week falls between 10th to 16th May and the theme for this year is around connecting to nature and how being out in nature can improve our mental health. Very much aligned with our beliefs at Way to Wellbeing, we thought it appropriate to delve into this connection a little deeper.

Spending time in nature, whether this is our gardens, parks, or vaster expanses can enhance our ability to enjoy life, reduce stress, and improve our mental and physical health. Our affinity toward nature is genetic and deep-rooted in evolution but for many, we have lost the importance of that connection.

Over the last few hundred years our cities have become more built up and condensed with less open spaces making it more difficult to break out of our internal thoughts and simply sit and take in the natural world, a proven tonic for feelings of stress.

Mindfulness is defined by Oxford Languages as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

There are generally known to be three qualities of mindfulness. These are based around intention; to cultivate awareness, attention; to the present moment and what is happening in and only in that particular moment, and attitude; to be curious, non-judgemental and open to experiences. If we can tap into these qualities, we can learn to be truly present, a way of being that can calm the mind and relax us.

Getting out into the natural world can help us to experience mindfulness which in turn can offer a fantastic therapeutic process. Unperturbed by the daily stresses humans experience, nature continues to grow and live without the necessity to hurry. You can’t rush the growth of a tree or the changing of the seasons. But in a world where we are increasingly pushed to go faster and achieve more, simply stepping back and taking in the unhurried natural world can have a calming impact on the mind.

An anonymous contributor to our partner initiative Minds Anonymous said:

“I feel like going out into nature reminds me to breathe again and just seeing nature makes me feel like my small bubble of worry is opened up. The colours, the sensations, remembering to breath and smell and touch the nature around me grounds me and soothes my anxiety. Nature opens up my perspective again.”

Using this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week hashtag #ConnectWithNature you can join the conversation and show how you are getting out into nature and looking after your mental health by embracing the great outdoors.

You may have spotted on our website that one of our Talk for Hire sessions as part of our wellbeing services is on Nature for Wellbeing. In this talk attendees are invited to explore the importance of time outside for both our mental and physical health. If you are interested in hiring this talk for your business or just individually send us a message to book.

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