Connect With Nature #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

It is strange that this 'topic' is given only a week in our 52-week calendar, when it impacts many people every second of every day - my sense is this is not about minimising 'mental wellness' or condensing it to 'one week' but calling our attention to it and how nature can and does help.

It is about us all reflecting on our own mental wellness first, creating time and space to connect with ourselves, and becoming curious, ‘How am I doing' and 'What do I need'. It is finding and creating ways to connect with our inner knowing, other people, and the vastness of nature.

We all instinctively know, spending time outdoors causes our mood to shift, our mind to quieten, our breath and heartbeat to slow down and we become more present and aware of our surroundings – we come to our senses.

I’m not sure how other people have managed during this pandemic; the lockdowns, the disconnection from other humans, the lack of physically being able to hug loved ones, the fear and limiting our movements, the mind chatter, and the sleepless nights and will this ever end.

Mental unwellness, whether over the last twelve months or a lifetime - feeling like you float through each day unseen and unheard or holding your breath so tightly, afraid to exhale and draw attention to your sense of brokenness, is not all in your head, it is REAL.

It can be a daily battle, holding things together, from the small everyday ways our bodies don’t get to move, folded over desks, and locked in ‘home’ offices which for some have become like prisons and for others a sanctuary, not having to engage with the world at all, disconnected.

I don’t know about other people, but my body, mind and soul felt wrecked, exhausted from this last year, especially, from the world holding its breath, from the grief of so much loss and from the constant expectancy of ‘the new normal’.

Nature has been my salvation from small mini mindful moments throughout my day to camping on an island filled with carpets of bluebells, the heady smell of wild garlic and the laughter of others.

Some days a few minutes in my garden creates the medicine needed to bring me ‘peace of mind’, other days I crave a hike in the woods or to be near/in water or the cool wetness of rain on my skin or the heat from the sun on my very bones or taking time to dig and work with the soil, the very nature of life itself.

If you stop for a moment and listen for long enough, nature will always whisper, ‘slow down’, ‘breathe deeply’ and ‘let go or let be’.

It has been proven that doing something ‘wild’ or ‘being in nature’ everyday has so many benefits:

  • Reduces anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • Our bodies breathe more deeply, we become aware of our bodies, and our gift to the world.
  • Improves sleep, appetite, and movement.
  • Connects us with ourselves, others, and our environment.
  • Sense of never being alone – the great oak tree in the park, the daffodils growing along the roadside, the flower pushing its way through the cracks in the pavement, bird song, sunrise and sunset and the knowledge that everything changes.

Connecting with nature can start anytime, you don’t need the latest gear, knowledge of trees/birds or another person, you can just step out NOW, open a window and listen, plant a seed, sit under a tree, walk barefoot on the grass, smell the rain after a sunny day and lose yourself in nature, even for a moment. What will you do today to connect with nature and feel the earth’s heartbeat?

“Still yourself.
Calm. Breathe deeply.
Understand that you are not
and never have been alone.”

Nikki Gill

Caroline Boyle, Engage Women's Service Practitioner.

For more information on the Engage Women's service please click here.