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Mental health and nature

Aristotle once said “there is something to be wondered at in all of nature.”

Sitting outside on a sunny day like today I have time to contemplate. I listen to the birds singing in the trees, I feel the breeze calling my face, I can even smell a barbecue somewhere in the distance. I look down at the daisies and dandelions pushing up through the grass but can probably do with its first cut of the year. On a day like today it is easy to understand but for some people and mental health problems and nature can work together the good.

During the lockdowns of the pandemic around the world, millions of us turns to the wonder of nature to help us get through these dark times. Whether that is a walk in the park, taking up a new outdoor hobby such as birdwatching or stargazing, Getting out the sketchbook or simply having a little time away from the family to yourself. Green spaces have never been more important to us.

It appears that nature is pivotal to our psychological and emotional well-being. It is almost impossible to have good mental health without that wider connection to the natural world in which we live. Sometimes we forget that for almost the entirety of human history we have lived as a part of nature.

In fact a study in the 1960s showed that patients in American hospitals recovered faster when they had a view of nature from the hospital window.

Despite this a lot of us are not accessing or benefiting from all that nature has to offer. For example teenagers are less likely to connect with nature in the UK. Surprisingly around 13% of UK households have no access to a garden or green space. Nature is not a luxury, it is a right and we should all have access to it.

So what can I do to improve my connection to nature?

Get out there and experience the world around you, take time to recognise and grow your connection with nature. Take time to notice and celebrate the nature in your daily life. Wonder at a flower, rejoice in watching a butterfly flutter by, taking the sounds and smells of the air next time you step outside.

Share nature.

Take a photo and post it on your social media, after all surely these are things to celebrate with your friends. Take a video or a sound recording and playback next time you’re at a loose end remember how you felt what you could smell and what you remember about that occasion. Help to inspire others by connecting with nature yourself.

We cannot underestimate the importance of being part of the world in which we live. There is joy to be had at the sight of the birds catching an airstream and drifting upwards. There is pleasure to be hold in watching the change in colours of the leaves on a tree throughout the year. There are untold health benefits of having quiet time listening to the chirps and the birds and the breeze, of watching the clouds roll by in the sky, in breathing in the smell of a flower, in seeing yourself as part of something bigger.

If you need mental health support in the UK please visit NHS.uk or if you need to speak to someone contact the Samaritans fort free on 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org