Nature & Wellbeing
Before I begin this, my very first blog post, I would like to invite you to take part in a brief exercise which you can do right where you are sitting. I invite you to begin by taking a deep breath in, holding it for a couple of seconds, and slowly breathe out. Please feel free to repeat this a few times if you wish. I invite you to think about one of your most favourite places outdoors. Perhaps it is the sea-side. Or maybe a favourite field or pasture. Perhaps it’s your own garden or a big tree that you like in a nearby park. Maybe it’s a stream, or a wooded walk, or a mountain. Close your eyes, if you wish, as you think about this favourite place in nature. See the colours. What can you smell? Fresh rain? The smell of pines? Can you feel the warmth of sunshine or a cool breeze on your face? Can you hear anything: leaves rustling, waves crashing, birds singing? Really allow yourself to immerse yourself in this image of your favourite place in nature.
Now, when you are ready, become aware of how you feel. What effects on your mind, body, and your emotions has visiting your special place in nature had? Do you notice any changes in how you feel in comparison to how you felt before you started this exercise?
My goal with this exercise is to illustrate that nature can have a profound positive effect on our moods, our feelings, our mental health, and our overall wellbeing. For me, being in nature can do wonderful things. Walking across the fields with my dog can stimulate creativity. Sitting near a stream or the sea can calm my mind. Watching my cats play in our garden can elicit joy. Being in a wood or on top of a mountain can help to ground me.
Research in the area of nature and its relationship with mental health and wellbeing demonstrates this positive effect that nature can have. I have included the references for three studies below if you are interested in learning more about the link between nature and mental health and wellbeing. If you have any further questions about this, do not hesitate to contact me.
My own personal experience, as well as existing research, suggests that spending time in nature can have a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing. It is also important to appreciate nature respectfully. Cleaning up after ourselves, recycling, observing wild animals rather than disrupting them are all examples of ways of honouring a healthy relationship with nature.
I would encourage you to consider stepping outside when you are feeling low, lost, sad, or angry and appreciate the nature that surrounds you. Cuddle your pet. Visit your favourite woods. Dig your hands into your garden. Visit your favourite place in nature. Engaging with nature often doesn’t cost much, and the benefits are priceless.
Mind. (2007). Ecotherapy: The Green Agenda for Mental Health [online], available: http://www.mind.org.uk/media/211255/Ecotherapy_The_green_agenda_for_mental_health.pdf [accessed 15 September 2014].
Raanaas, R., Patil, G. & Hartig, T. (2011). ‘Health benefits of a view of nature through a window: a quasi-experimental study of patients in a residential rehabilitation centre’, Clinical Rehabilitation, 26(1), 21-32.
Wells, N. & Evans, G. (2003). ‘Nearby nature: a buffer of life stress among rural children’, Environment and Behavior, 35(3), 311-330.