Mental Health Awareness Week for 2021 runs from the 10th to the 16th May and this year’s theme is nature!
The week is lead by the Mental Health Foundation, their website gives details of what the week is about:
“The evidence is clear that access to nature is crucial for our mental health and millions of people re-discovered that during lockdowns this year. However, this was not the same for all of us. We want to explore what the barriers are and ensure everyone is able to share in the natural world and experience the mental health benefits.
The week will be an opportunity to open our eyes to the power of nature.
We have set the theme, organised and hosted Mental Health Awareness Week for the last 21 years, during which time the event has grown to become one of the biggest awareness weeks across the UK and globally. The Week is an opportunity for people to talk about all aspects of mental health, with a focus on providing help and advice.”
The importance of connecting with nature has been highlighted by the recent coronavirus pandemic over the last year and a bit. Natural England have been completing studies about the populations access to nature. Their report People and Nature Survey: How are we connecting with nature during the coronavirus pandemic? has been undertaken to establish official statistics which seeks to understand the role of nature in the nation’s health and wellbeing. During the pandemic many more people have been seeking contact with nature during this period, whether that’s in our back gardens, in local green spaces as part of our daily exercise, or from our windows only.
The survey showed that urban green spaces – such as parks and playing fields – were the most visited type of green and natural space in April, with 41% of adults visiting these green spaces in the last month. Fields, farmland and countryside were also popular with 25% adults visiting, as were woodland and forests (with 24% of adults visiting) and rivers, lakes and canals (with 21% of adults visiting).
The survey also reveals that a smaller proportion of adults spent time outside in April this year (41% at least once in the last week) than their reported average over 12 months (73% at least once a week) which obviously suggests that restrictions around coronavirus had an impact on people using green spaces.
This week is all about embracing nature to improve out mental health, the benefits of nature with relation to our mental health have been proven. The mental health charity Mind have highlighted these benefits.
Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. For example, doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have lots of positive effects. It can:
- improve your mood
- reduce feelings of stress or anger
- help you take time out and feel more relaxed
- improve your physical health
- improve your confidence and self-esteem
- help you be more active
- help you make new connections
- provide peer support.
Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.
Being outside in natural light can also be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year. And people tell us that getting into nature has helped them with many other types of mental health problems.
This week its time to experience nature, get stuck in notice how much you interact with nature over the week, share nature, take a photo, video or sound recording and share the connections you’ve made during the week and inspire others with them and finally talk about nature, encourage people to find new ways to connect with nature in your local environment.
Watch out for more blogs over the week for ideas on how you can access nature and improve your mental health.