Connection to nature is fundamental to good mental health.
However, our busy lives keep us distracted from this in lots of different ways: the ever-pinging notifications on our phones demanding our attention to a screen, the concrete, tarmac and brick environments many of us live in, the tight schedules filled with work and home-life leaving little space to stop and pause.
What would happen if we were to stop and pause, just for a moment, and engage our senses?
We’d feel the solid earth beneath our feet, an ever-present, always-reliable support to stand and face the day’s difficulties. We might hear the rustle of the newly-sprouted leaves that sway in the breeze heralding summer’s arrival.
We’d feel the touch of the sun’s May warmth on our skin, gentle and comforting. In our darkest moments, when perhaps depression has us in its grasp, or during the overwhelming agitation of a bout of anxiety, nature remains all around us: a reliable, undemanding companion.
Spending time immersing ourselves in the natural world brings tremendous benefits.
Movement, fresh air and sunlight do wonders for our physical body, improving our stamina and immune systems, as well as promoting improved sleep. Exercise releases endorphins and serotonin, the chemicals produced by our bodies that improve our mood. Time spent in nature can boost our emotions, help us to feel more motivated, and give our self-esteem a lift.
A few years ago I worked with a man who experienced depression and anxiety. His cramped, noisy home was a place he often felt unsafe and alone. It was also where he spent almost all of his time.
We explored small changes he could make to help him improve his mood day-to-day. Spending time outside was one of the possibilities we identified. For the next week, he spent time each day exploring the local park, finding different paths and places to sit, and even discovering the beauty of the local river.
He reported a marked improvement in his mood, his levels of motivation and his self-esteem directly as a result of his explorations of the natural spaces around him. He made huge progress with his mental health issues.
Carl Jung the psychologist said: “I want to be freed neither from human beings, nor from myself, nor from nature, for all these appear to me the greatest of miracles.” I think Carl Jung was right: we’re surrounded by nature’s miracles. This Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s important to reflect on the tremendous benefits reconnecting to those miracles can bring.
Read the full blog post here.
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