Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: Nature

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This year, theme for Mental Health Awareness week is Nature.

Many of us have noticed that we have become more and more aware of the natural world during the COVID-19 pandemic and for many people the natural world has been a source of relaxation and calm.

This week is an invitation for you to connect with nature in new ways. This might be in a woodland, a park, a garden, the beach or with the nature that you can access in your home.

There is scientific evidence that being connected with nature can be good for your mental health! We are not apart from, or separate from nature and the natural world, but very much a part of it and part of a huge ecosystem. We are “hitched to everything else in the universe” We are connected to people, the planet and the flora and fauna.

THE SCIENCE
BEHIND NATURE CONNECTION AND MENTAL HEALTH

When we walk outside for 15 minutes amongst the
trees and plants we inhale phytoncides. These wonderful
chemicals help to lower the level of cortisol in our
bodies. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is closely
related to anxiety and depression, which helps explain why a walk outside can
boost our mood.

In a handful of soil, there are billions of
micro-organisms. One is found in all soil and is called Mycobacterium
Vaccae. When we inhale a tiny bit of it’s cell wall, there is a
group of neurons in our brain that release serotonin which
is a neurotransmitter associated with positive mood. Think about how nice the
forest smells when it rains, next time your  walking in woodland take in
deep breath or maybe get hands on and plant some veg or a pot plant.

Listening to the sound of water is shown to reduce
our cortisol levels and to move us away from anxiety
related ‘fight, flight, freeze, faint’ feelings towards relaxation. This is the
case even if we are watching videos of water.

When we see something beautiful or that fills us
with wonder in nature that releases Dopamine which is a
positive neurotransmitter associated with positive mood and motivation.

(Ideas and science inspired by BBC AUTUMNWATCH)

SIMPLE THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO TO CONNECT WITH NATURE.

Soak it up

Find a safe place to sit maybe by a tree or looking at the sea or looking out of a window and just observe the things that you see and the things that you can hear. Resist the temptation to do anything.

Take notice

Go for a short walk outside and find three things that catch your attention, look at them more closely and see if there are things that you haven’t noticed about it before. A leaf, for example is a potential wonder of patterns. You can also do this in your home, looking at the leaves of a pot plant.

If you are in a town, can you see plants and flowers that are making the use of the space that they can get, pushing through cracks in the walls or the pavements for example?

If you need to stay indoors, maybe you could open a window and see what changes in what you can hear and smell. Or see if you can see the moon or the stars or birds from the window. Or maybe you could spend some time listening to the sound of the sea or birds on an audio recording

Engage your imagination

Can you remember or think of stories that you love or loved that take place in the natural world? Maybe you would like to re-read them?

Get quirky

Talk to a tree, a flower, a river or a plant. Tell it about your day, or sing to it or read it a poem. Congratulate the robin on its song. Try to mimic the birdsongs that you hear.

OUTDOOR THERAPY

Here at the Youth Trust, we believe so much in the power of nature to have a positive effect on our mental health, that we are looking forward to starting some outdoor therapy groups for later this year.

We hope that our groups will include an allotment group, beach therapy group and forest therapy group. All further information on the groups will be posted on our website and social media pages. 

If you don’t already, make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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