BlogMental Health

The natural world and mental health well being

 Jackie Scruton writes

On a  personal level, I recognised early in my career the need to look after both my body and my mind and for me the way to do that was by using the great outdoors, both as a playground and a place to just sit and enjoy either the sound of the waves or the view of a rugged hill top. So, it was with interest that I read this new guide: Thriving with nature which has been produced jointly by The World Wildlife Fund and the Mental Health Foundation. Its aim is to help us use nature to promote positive mental well-being. It examines the links between nature, wellbeing and mental health.

A 2018 survey by the Mental Health Foundation found 74% of respondents felt so stressed and /or overwhelmed that they were unable to cope with daily life, indicating how important it is to look after ourselves and those around us. Researchers from multiple studies have found that spending time in ‘green spaces’, helps to improve mood, and increase life satisfaction. Further to this, physical activity in the outdoors can also relieve stress. A well-recognised way of helping to combat feelings of stress and anxiety is using relaxation and mindfulness techniques.

The Japanese have long been promoting the concept of Shinran Yoku or Forest Bathing as a way to improve mental health.  It involves spending time in woodland using all the senses to engage with the environment. This might involve physical exercise, but could be used as inspiration to be creative, whether that be reading writing or drawing.  The theme of using your senses throughout the four seasons, helps to develop an understanding of using any outdoor space (even a small 4th floor balcony) to aid mental well -being.

What this guide does very well, is it uses existing research to support the theme of using nature and it is possibly best summed up by the following quote taken from the guide:

“Nature has this calming and enchanting effect. Walking in the woods, smelling the fresh forest air, or sitting on a rock watching the ocean waves and sea birds hunting for fish. Magical.”

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