Nature is our most accessible wellbeing resource. It’s all around us, it’s extremely effective, and best of all, it’s free.
Research shows that people who spend more time in nature report higher levels of health and wellbeing. From boosting self-esteem and improving concentration, to recharging your mind and body, there’s a wide variety of the mental health benefits of nature.
But these benefits aren’t a secret. Many turned to nature during 2020 to help look after their wellbeing, particularly when our daily activities were heavily restricted.
Research by the Mental Health Foundation found that going for walks outside was one of the UKs top coping strategies during this time, and websites that showed footage of wildlife saws hits increase by over 2000 percent.
In or out of lockdown, the mental health benefits of nature are powerful – and they’re backed up by science. So, to harness this power, we’re sharing 10 actionable tips to help you (and your team) connect with nature, to help give your wellbeing that all important boost.
1. Get up and go
It might sound obvious, but the best way to connect with nature is to immerse yourself in it. And that starts with getting out your chair and leaving the house.
It could be for a short walk, a jog, or even just to sit down for a while (weather-dependant of course). Scheduling in those 5 (or more!) minutes at the beginning of the day will help you to find that “get up and go”.
2. Engage all your senses
It’s not just about being in nature, but how you interact with it that counts. The Japanese call this “forest bathing”, and it’s all about engaging each of your senses when you’re out and about, allowing the experience of nature to wash over you.
Listen to the sounds of the birds, watch the swaying of the trees, and take in the scent of the grass.
By engaging your senses in this way, it allows for ‘soft stimulation’ of the mind. So, while your senses are being engaged, your mind is allowed to rest, and negative feelings tend to ease.
3. Exercise outdoors
Any exercise is good exercise, but where possible, try and exercise outside rather than inside the house. Exercising in green spaces for as little as 5 minutes has been found to boost mood and increase feelings of self-esteem.
By exercising outside, you can enjoy the benefits of physical activity while also soaking up sunlight and connecting with nature. It’s a win-win-win!
4. Keep on the grass
Swap the four walls of your workspace at lunch for the green grass of the great outdoors. Research has found a link between time spent in open green spaces and a number of mental health benefits, such as reduced stress and increased life satisfaction.
It could be a park, a local playing field or even your back garden. Wherever it is, keep on the grass!
5. Get out in the garden
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then make the most of it, and get your gardening gloves on! Studies have found that gardening reduces stress, boosts self-esteem and improves overall quality of life.
You don’t even need outside space to do some gardening. All you need is a sunny windowsill, compost and some seeds, and your connection with nature will flourish.
6. Implement an active commute
Your commute to work is an ideal opportunity to spend more time outside.
If you’re lucky enough to live in walking or cycling distance to work, swap your usual commute for something more active – and soak up the sounds of nature whilst you do so.
But even if you live further away, it shouldn’t stop you from implementing an active commute. Try to hop off the bus a few stops early or take a 5-minute walking detour between the car park and the office.
And if you work from home, create a “working from home” commute, by going for a short walk around the block at the beginning and end of each day.
7. Bring nature to you
If you live or work in the city and you’re struggling to find green open space, then you can bring nature to you.
This could be through introducing indoor plants, hanging pictures of nature on the wall or even just opening a window to let some fresh air in.
In fact, indoor plants have been shown to positively influence people’s wellbeing and productivity levels, particularly in the workplace.
8. Interact with wildlife
Being around animals and wildlife has been proven to be beneficial for overall wellbeing.
But you don’t have to start making friends with foxes or playing fetch with squirrels! Interacting with wildlife could be as simple as watching the birds from your window, looking out for the bees or taking part in community research (like the Big Butterfly Count).
If you can’t see any wildlife, try to listen out for them instead. At this time of year, birdsong fills the mornings and early evenings, no matter where you are.
9. Walk by the water
Most communities are built in close proximity to water not just for practical reasons, but because as humans, we’re naturally drawn to blue space.
Being by the water is good for the body and the mind. It has been associated with many positive measures of wellbeing, from psychological restoration to better social relations.
So next time you go for a walk, try and incorporate some time by water, even if it’s just the local pond!
10. Check out guided imagery
You don’t have to be in nature to reap the rewards. Our mind is a powerful tool, and simple meditations can bring about the calming effects of nature even when we’re at our desks.
This is what guided imagery is all about: finding a moment of calm by transporting yourself to another place, whether that be in nature or somewhere else.
There’s a number of guided imagery exercises to explore on Champion’s workplace health platform, and we’re sharing one of these below.
This meditation guides you through a peaceful meadow, which will help you to immerse yourself in nature and the relaxation it can bring.
Mental health benefits of nature
The Mental Health Foundation describe nature as a ‘great untapped resource for a mentally healthy future’. The good news is that tapping into this resource is incredibly easy to do, and we hope our 10 actionable tips will help you on your way with this.
So what will you, your team or your organisation do this Mental Health Awareness Week, to connect with nature and boost your mental and physical wellbeing?