Perfect for Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May)
Each year for the last 21 years the Mental Health Foundation has chosen a theme for Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is nature. (Find out more here
The past year has shown how important nature is to our wellbeing and with one of our other pillars also being the environment we definitely wanted to wholeheartedly embrace this theme.
With the help of our friends at Manchester Mind we have gathered together some top tips to help you make the most of nature to actively support better mental health.
- Gardening is a good way to vent frustration and worries
Grab a shovel and start digging. Pick up the garden shears and get rid of those brambles. The more physical and destructive side of gardening can be very cathartic and is a positive way to let out some tension.
Tip: Save big physical tasks for the end of a working week, or after a big meeting. You will work off all that energy and have something positive to show for it.
- Gardening is great physical exercise
Research shows activity in the garden can burn as many calories as time spent in the gym. Working on your garden is an excellent way to get all-round exercise for improving strength, endurance and flexibility and can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other medical conditions.(*British Psychological Society Journal: Cultivating Wellbeing and Mental Health through Gardening by Vaithehy Shanmuganathan-Felton, Luke Felton, Celia Briseid and Betty Maitland. 2020)
- Gardening is therapeutic
Time spent focused on a garden task can distract us from our worries. Instead of concerns about bills, work, family or struggle, we are concentrating on the task at hand. This gives our mind a break.
- Gardening releases endorphins
This is the ‘happy hormone’ which can help you feel relaxed, satisfied and calm.
- Engage with your garden
Engagement in gardening activities is also shown to promote social relationships, family connection, emotional and mental wellbeing, moderate stress, reduce depression and anxiety.
Proven wellbeing effects include increased enjoyment, sense of achievement, satisfaction and pride from nurturing the plants; feelings of mastery and empowerment. It provides quiet time for reflection and increased confidence and self-esteem
Participating in gardening activities shows improvements in life satisfaction, vigour, psychological wellbeing, positive affect, quality of life and reductions in stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety symptoms reported. Engagement in gardening has shown to have both immediate and long-term effects on mental health outcomes.
Just gardening for several hours provides instantaneous reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, while gardening daily is associated with reduced stress and increased life satisfaction
- Mindfulness in the Garden
Gardening is a peaceful activity and because of this it offers mindfulness without having to do much more than engage with the task. There are however ways to amp up the opportunity for mindfulness in your garden.
- Disconnect from devices
When you are gardening, to make the experience truly mindful try switching off your devices. Spend this time just with nature. A time to experience connection to the natural world, its sounds, sights, textures and smells.
- Take off your gloves
Gardening is extremely tactile and our sense of touch is very powerful. Try taking off your gloves and getting your hands dirty. When you put your hands in the soil, or feel a leaf or petal, appreciate how they feel. What is the texture like? How does it move through your fingers? Spend a few moments really noticing these things.
- Walk barefoot
There is a lot of pleasure to be found in feeling the ground beneath your bare feet. Be bold and take off your shoes. Pay attention to how the ground feels, close your eyes, take a breath and experience a special grounding connection to the earth.
- Simple Meditations for the garden
Plants and flowers are wonderful subjects to focus on for meditation. Find a plant or flower to focus on, sit down in front of it and begin with noticing your breath. Now as you are breathing steadily, turn your attention to the plant and observe it. Pay attention. How do the leaves and petals look in this moment? Are they flat, curved or twisted? Are the edges smooth or spiked?
As with any meditation, your mind may begin to drift. That is okay and to be expected. When it happens, notice, return your attention to your breath and then continue with your observation of the plant.
Sounds present in nature can be soothing and calm our nervous system. If you are out in the garden or in a local park, you can embrace this calm if you just close your eyes and notice the sounds happening around you. You might even want to lie on the grass if the weather is nice enough.
Rain, Rain – Don’t go away.
The sound of pouring rain is a delight to the senses and a wonderful opportunity for mindfulness. The next time the heavens open try sitting by an open window or standing outside under an umbrella. Close your eyes and have a moment to yourself with the raindrops echoing gently in your ears.
We would also love to hear from you about your top tips so please tag us on social media and use #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek