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Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: How connecting with nature can improve mental wellbeing
By Melanie Vincent, Wellbeing Project Officer for the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

Photo taken pre-covid

 Mental Health Awareness Week, which is organised annually by the Mental Health Foundation and which takes place from Monday 10th to Sunday 16th May, is a cause the Wellbeing Programme supports and promotes every year, but this year more than most it is more relevant than ever to our work as the theme for 2021 is ‘nature’.

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Wellbeing Programme was set up in 2008 to support people living with mental health conditions and works on the principle that by engaging with nature we can improve mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

As human beings we have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature, and it is this, together with engaging in a meaningful way with our environment, that can help us feel safe and grounded and give perspective to our lives, as well as a greater appreciation for the natural wonders around us and a desire to protect it.

The last year has seen some challenging times, but one of the positive stories to emerge is how many of us have rediscovered the value of nature for our own wellbeing, whether it’s a place where we can exercise or meet up with a friend or in a group of six, or a place where we can unwind and just immerse ourselves in the natural surroundings.

The Wellbeing Programme uses the ‘Six Ways to Wellbeing’ to guide the range of nature-based activities provided on the sessions. However, anyone anywhere can use this guide to improve their own wellbeing. Why not give it a go and see how it can benefit you? 

  1. Body: Stay active

The links between a healthy body and a healthy mind are well-established. If you’re able to go outside, find a physical activity you can do outdoors, and aim do it for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. If you’re not able to go outside, find an exercise you can do at home, by an open window or door, so you can breathe in the fresh air.

 

  1. Mind: Keep learning

Learning new things keeps your mind active and engaged which can boost your wellbeing and happiness. When outside, or from your window, take a look or listen out for the animals you can see or hear. Learn to identify different species and find out more about them.

 

  1. Place: Take notice

Noticing nature helps us slow down and can reduce stress. Whilst outside – or from your window – take notice of the changes taking place in nature. You could take this activity further and record your findings in a journal, adding sketches or taking photograph.

 

  1. People: Stay connected

Close relationships are important to our wellbeing and can add years to our lives. Whether in person, virtually or via social media, try to stay connected with others by sharing your wildlife photographs or wildlife observations – this can help nurture connectivity with others.

 

  1. Planet: Look after the planet

Our planet is our home, so caring for it is crucial to the planet’s wellbeing as well as our own. Think carefully about what you buy and where it comes from, and how much packaging the items come in. Recycle, upcycle and reuse as much as possible, as well reduce energy and fuel consumption where possible. Taking steps to look after the planet will make you feel good.

 

  1. Spirit: Give back

Giving makes us feel good and helps us feel connected to others. Volunteering is a good way to ‘give back’ to the community and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has many volunteering opportunities for people to get involved. Read more.

You can also volunteer for Carer Support Wiltshire, read more about our volunteering roles.

The Wellbeing Programme is currently running following Covid-safe guidelines. If you feel you would benefit from being involved, please contact the team by emailing wellbeing@wiltshirewildlife.org.

Thank you to Melanie Vincent from Wiltshire Wildlife Trust for writing this blog for us.