#Connect With Nature
This year Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 (10th - 16th of May) focused “Nature and the Environment”. It’s been such a challenging time for many of us during lock-down and looking after our mental health has never been more important. We all have mental health and it is just as important as our physical health. When our mental health is good, we feel emotionally well, able to look after ourselves and able to engage with the things that we care about. When we struggle with our mental health, we can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, which can make it difficult to manage in our daily lives.
“Playing my guitar takes me to my happy place but it’s even more amazing when I do it outside. I makes me feel so connected with nature and all my worries fade away.’”
Research has shown that contact with nature can provide multiple health and wellbeing benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety; and boosting our mood, self-esteem, and resilience. Yet during lock down, most of us have had to spend more time than usual indoors – because of shielding, homeworking and home schooling which is why we think it’s more important than ever to connect with nature and nurture our mental health.
“#myhappyplace: Our Caithness sky is beautiful any time of the year. Also love walking at the beach, listening to the sounds of the waves.”
The good news is, getting out in the environment doesn't have to be huge (unless you want it to), it could be sitting on your back step and listening to the birds for 5 minutes, walking barefoot on the grass or planting some flowers in a window box. There are so many excellent blogs, podcasts and books out there for ideas. We have included a few below but nature is as unique as you are so try to read/listen to a few and see which you connect with the most.
“#myhappyplace: Is when I’m outside being creative - creating a nature mandala using bits and pieces from the garden (a lovely meditative activity). I’ve even foraged in my garden, the forest and my ribbon box picking up bits and pieces to make a floral crown and a Christmas wreath!”
For people who can’t go outside, studies have shown that gazing out a window or looking at nature photos or videos — including virtual tours — are also effective in promoting positive mental health. Did you know that the simple act of looking at the colour green can help you feel better? One study found that look at nature can help your brain work better, and another study found that we associate the colour green with happiness, comfort, hope, excitement, and a sense of peace.
“My happy place is Loch More, it’s quiet which is great for my dog walks and getting head space. It’s a bonus that it’s very photogenic.”
Recent studies have highlighted the importance of time in nature for children, young people and adults. In children and young people time to connect with nature builds confidence, promotes creativity and imagination as well as reducing stress and fatigue.
“When I’m spending time being creative I’m away in a world of my own and this is my happy place! I love combining my love of nature and the outdoors with creativity. A mindful walk taking photos of a nice view (usually a sunset) or little things I spot”
We all have different experiences and ways of looking after your mental health, or you may not be sure where to start. During Mental Health Awareness week we have posted various tips and ideas on how to connect with nature and also how we at CASWA embrace nature when making time for self-care. At CASWA, we’re big advocates for self-care and its importance in mental health and wellbeing – and this means looking after ourselves too!
“Walking takes me to my happy place. I’ve walked Reiss beach all my life, so it is definitely up there for me. So long as it is somewhere peaceful and quiet though, I’m happy! Whether it be walking my dogs, a socialy-distanced evening walk with a friend, a “long walk” over the weekend or a walk after work listening to a podcast, I’m in my happy place!”
Some of our suggestions to #connectwithnature
Find a nice quiet spot to watch the sun set and enjoy the view (and the peace and quiet), we’ve plenty of beautiful spots in Caithness & Sutherland;
Get up with the birds, step outside, listen to the bird song and enjoy the very start of the day with a nature meditation;
Go on a mindful walk and hunt for seaglass or shells on one of our beautiful beaches.
Wrap up warm and star gaze (or look out for the aurora borealis);
Get creative and find your “flow” meditative activities where you get “lost” in the activity – any pass time where you seem to forget time and are just “in” the activity;
Stick on a podcast or audiobook and walk, walk, walk…enjoying the views!
Walk around your garden barefoot on a warm Summers day.
Combine walking, nature and photography. Be mindful of where you walk – spot the beauty in the simple, little things and keep a photography journal.
Go on a mini roadtrips and explore the corners and pockets of Caithness and Sutherland (and why not pack a picnic!);
Eat outside – our favourite at the moment is grabbing some takeaway pizzas from Caithness Pizza and enjoying them outside!
Do a beach clean – Look up Caithness Beach Cleans and spend some time in nature and help the environment
Resources we’ve enjoyed/found useful/would recommend:
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Conversation about Anxiety by Sarah Wilson
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig Available free at the moment as an abridged audio on BBC Sounds https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/p08jkjbl
Books by Fearne Cottons (Quiet, Calm, Happy)
Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2021 by Lia Leendertz
The Joy Journal by Laura Brand
Free Magazine from Psychologies https://www.facebook.com/Psychologiesmagazine/posts/10159462107951974
I Weigh by Jameela Jamil
Bryony Gordon’s Mad World
Period Power with Maisie Hill
Happy Place by Fearne Cotton
Couch to 5K
Yoga with Adrienne
CAMHS Resources: https://www.camhs-resources.co.uk/
Make a bug hotel
Make your own nature garland