“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” —Albert Einstein.
The 10 – 16th May is Mental Health Awareness week, and this year the theme is ‘Nature and the Environment’.
I remember during the first lockdown, having to do an emergency dash to Liverpool because my 85 year old father-in-law’s mental health deteriorated so quickly and drastically, the isolation and loneliness became just to unbearable and he was unable to cope. COVID I suppose has helped us realise how important family and friends are, and without regular access to them, we find it difficult.
One year later he’s still living with us and doing well. One of the favourite things he enjoys, is sitting out in the garden, especially when it’s sunny, listening to his new passion ‘Alexa’, playing all the old songs he used to love.
A great deal has happened over the past year – we’ve had a lot to cope with, and for some of us nature has helped keep us sane. Going for long walks at the end of stressful days, taking some long breaths outside and breathing in that natural air, and tuning our minds to the sounds of the birds and nature, gives us comfort. Mental health research has shown that during the pandemic, going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies.
The mental health charity MIND have some great ideas to help promote mental health awareness, meeting with friends, and tuning into nature:
• Reach out to a friend and see if they’d like to go on a short walk together – notice things that you see, smell, hear and feel whilst outside.
• For a change, organise an outdoor coffee break with work colleagues (check the weather forecast first!).
• Take a photo each day of the week, of something you appreciate about the natural world. You could share this online and let people know how it helps with your sense of mental wellbeing.
• Pledge to take some outdoor exercise each day of the week, and ask your friends to sponsor you to complete your challenge. Perhaps you can donate this to the MIND charity to help them continue all the great work they do.
You can let your imagination take off!
If you want to share your stories of how nature has supported your mental health, it would be great to hear from you. Or if you would like to contribute to the blog, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, enjoy the outdoors and stay safe.
I have been a mental health nurse for 28 years. I work in the Health and Wellbeing Team, and my main role is to facilitate mental health and related subjects. I also facilitate epilepsy and emergency rescue medication training. I provide support and consultations to managers and teams supporting individuals with complex needs and mental health difficulties. This blog is written to encourage people to start talking about mental health, in order to raise awareness and reduce stigma.