This week is mental health awareness week in the UK and the theme this year is connecting with nature. With all the restrictions on what we’ve been able to do over the past year, it seems to me that collectively our connection to nature has become stronger. That we’ve become increasingly aware of how getting out into nature can help our mental health. And this week seems to be inviting us to remember that as our worlds start opening up again and the choices over how and where we spend our time become broader.
From my own perspective getting out for a walk every day has been a vital part of what’s kept me going. It’s more than just the fresh air and exercise. It is experiencing the changing seasons; the daily differences in the development of trees and flowers, the dawn chorus, the return of migrating birds, the changing water levels, the chill wind or the warm breeze etc.
There’s a grounding activity I love to do when I’m out for my walks. It’s a simple list of things to take note of that really helps me to experience my surroundings beyond what’s immediately visible. I first came across it printed on this sandwich board on a visit to Westonbirt Arboretum.
Next time you’re out for a walk, why not give it a try. Take a moment to pause and notice:
5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can touch
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Of course, it’s not always possible for us to get outside or find a space to imerse ourselves in nature on our doorstep. So, here are a few ideas for how we can experience the natural world even when we’re not able to get out into it:
- explore the landscapes of artists including Eric Ravilious, David Hockney and Van Gogh
- keep a nature journal
- create your own Hockney inspired landscapes
- learn how to identify a bird from its song