Get outdoors and connect with nature

The Mental Health Foundation’s 21 year old campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues is happening all week. It comes just one week ahead of the anticipated easing of the lockdown restrictions after more than a year of pandemic hardship.

This year’s chosen theme is all about the benefits that the outdoors and proximity to nature can have on our mental well-being. The hashtag #ConnectWithNature is being promoted across social media by the Mental Health Foundation.

Seven in ten UK adults (70 per cent) said being close to nature improves their mood according to a new survey into its effects on mental health.

The Mental Health Foundation undertook a survey of 4274 UK adults aged 18 and over on 6th-8th April 2021 and has been published to coincide with the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week.

The Mental Health Foundation’s recent survey revealed convincing evidence of the positive impact that connecting with nature can have on our positive mental health.

Almost two thirds of UK adults (65 per cent) said that being close to nature made them feel positive emotions such as joy, calm and wonder.

Almost half of UK adults (49 per cent) said being close to nature helps manage stress and four in 10 UK adults (44 per cent) felt less anxious and worried near nature.

Nature can be indoors as well as out. You might have a houseplant sitting on your windowsill, or a vase of flowers, or some vegetable or flower seeds starting to sprout, perhaps a window box that you’re planting up. Colours, smells and textures are all part of nature and indoor plants really do improve the air quality and our mood.

Outside, going to the park, finding a nature trail and spotting birds and wildlife, or a walk beside the sea make us feel lighter and less troubled giving us something outside of ourselves to focus on.

It’s no surprise that since the pandemic, we value outside space like never before. We are seeing so many more homebuyers viewing a garden as importantly as a property; even a small terrace or balcony brings us in closer contact with nature.

Sadly, one in ten adults (11 per cent) reported in the survey that they found it difficult to access nature when they wanted.

Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation Mark Rowland said: “Nature can be a powerful ally in protecting our mental health, preventing distress and ensuring good mental wellbeing.

“During the pandemic, millions of us discovered nature’s power to relieve stress, worry, anxiety and restore us with positive emotions, such as joy. While nature won’t solve all our problems – prioritising time in nature can really help support good mental health. However, the most important thing is the quality of the experience and feeling like we connect with nature by trying to notice its beauty and absorb its sights, sounds and scents.

“We also need to go beyond what we as individuals can do, and engage Government, local councils and others in bringing nature to the centre of all our lives.”