Mental health awareness week will take place from the 10th -16th May 2021, the theme this year is nature.
For me personally being outside is a key part of my daily routine – I love being outdoors and going for walks whether on my own, with friends or my family. Some of my happiest memories are spending time with my children looking at clouds in the sky and trying to find different animal shapes. Being in nature has really helped me cope with the pandemic and when you look at the health benefits it is no wonder that nature was chosen as this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week.
At the end of this document there is a list of fun nature activities you can do but first let’s look at why spending time in nature is so important.
Our ancestors historically lived and worked as part of nature and it is only in our recent history (last 5 generations) that many of us no longer work in the natural environment and have, as a result, become disconnected from nature.
The book “This could save your life” by Graham Lawton discusses the importance of nature for your mental and physical health. He tells us that our heart rate slows down, we breathe better and our responses are improved whilst in nature.
Being outside exposes us to natural light which has many health benefits, the air is fresh and there are exercise opportunities, we can interact with other people and all this helps reduce our worries. You don’t have to be active either, just sitting or standing in nature has health benefits too.
Enjoying the natural world is a creative way to reduce stress. As we become more aware of our surroundings, engage our senses and focus our attention on the details of nature all around us it gives us a break from the problems and worries of our daily lives.
Being in nature is not only important for our health but also for our children’s development. Stopping, looking and listening to nature helps with concentration, it promotes outdoor play which in turn promotes a healthy lifestyle whilst being a fun way to learn. The BBC Tiny Happy People site has some great ideas for exploring nature with younger children.
Even if green space is difficult to access you can gain many of the benefits by looking at pictures of natural scenes or listening to a recording of natural sounds such as bird song. These things can help to reduce our heart rate and blood pressure.
You can find lots of details about the Mental Health Awareness Week here, where they are asking us all to do three things:
- Experience nature. There is a list of fun activities at the end of this document.
- Share nature. Take pictures, video or sound recording and share them to encourage others to get involved.
- Talk about nature. Talk to family and friends about your experiences of time in nature.
Mental health awareness week gives us the opportunity to recognise that nature is an important part of helping with our wellbeing, happiness and has lots of health benefits. Nature is not a luxury; it is a resource freely available to everyone to enjoy and enhance our lives for the better.
Finally, a quote from Sir David Attenborough
It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.
Top 10 fun activity ideas in nature for your family and friends
Having explained the benefits of being in nature let’s look at some examples of what you can do. Some ideas based on experiences with my family include:
- Studying the clouds. Look up in the sky and see who can spot the best shapes – can you find any animal shapes?
- Have a picnic in nature. Check out some of Britain’s best picnic spots here.
- Go Geocaching to find hidden treasure
- Build an animal habitat such as a bee or bug hotel
- Litter picking in nature
- Exercise in nature – run, skip, cycle or walk. Why not try a Parkrun?
- Have a bird feeder in a window (some stick with suckers to the outside of any window). Or you can make your own from recycled materials.
- Get involved with a Nature Survey.
- Look for wildlife – how many different animals can you spot. Keep a list during a day out or over a week. Here are some wildlife spotting tips and tricks from the National Trust.
- If you can find a bridge over a river play Pooh Sticks.