Using nature to nurture wellbeing
Having recently moved to a big city, I’ve been really aware of the lack of green space compared to where I used to live. It’s the same in many cities across the UK, as horizons are dominated by skyscrapers and offices, while parks and wildlife are scarce in comparison.
I’ve always been quite active and enjoyed being outdoors, but I didn’t realise the direct impact a lack of green space or nature can have on your mental health. German research, quoted in the UK press, said people who live in the countryside are happier, while an American study found those living in urban areas are 21% more likely to have anxiety.
There could be for a number of reasons for this. The pace of life is likely to be faster in a city and there’s generally more pollution too. And if you’re anything like me, the thought of exercising – which is heavily linked to wellbeing – outside in the city isn’t as appealing as the thought of doing the same in the countryside. Running along a busy main road just doesn’t seem as enjoyable as going for a forest walk.
So what role can nature play and how can we get a bit more of it in our lives?
How can nature help?
The mental health charity Mind says spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. Doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors, or being around animals can have lots of positive effects, helping you feel more relaxed and improving your mood.
And a report by Natural England published on the Government website shows taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental health issues by reducing levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.
What can we do?
You don’t have to escape to the country for a long weekend to feel the benefits of nature. A walk at lunchtime in your local park or even creating a space to grow vegetables or herbs can help.
So whether it’s a bit of gardening, putting out bird feeders, or even just reading or eating outdoors, bringing a little bit of nature into your life can have a great effect on your mental wellbeing.
If you’re not sure where to start there are loads of local community groups who are happy to help. So why not have a look and see what’s happening in your area?