EVEN WHEN YOU LIVE IN A CITY SKY SCRAPER!
Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world. This is the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2021, re-connecting with nature.
This really resonates deeply, connecting with nature is the fundamental part of being human, realising the balance of nature and our world, from the life cycle of a leaf to the amazing bio-diversity on this planet we all call home. I for one, am a strong believer that the more we connect to nature, the more time we spend freely walking and feeling the connection to life around us, the better we can show up for ourselves and others. Nature, makes us human. Nature, reminds us of the present moment.
There’s a lot of good research to support the role nature can play in protecting and supporting our mental health. We have felt that connection deeper than ever this year and as we collectively heal from what has been a trying and difficult experience, with a huge amount of change in our modern lives. It is nature that has remained steady, present, calm and inspired our lives.
If you have no connection to nature and I know a few people really don’t feel that deeply for it, have quite seperate lives from nature and haven’t experienced the healing or comfort nature can provide, for some ‘being’ in nature is a very remote feeling, especially in our busy, modern lives, there are a few small steps you can make towards finding a connection and reaping the benefits in your daily life.
THE GOOD NEWS IS, YOU DON’T HAVE TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN – THERE ARE LOTS OF SIMPLE WAYS TO BRING NATURE INTO YOUR EVERYDAY.
Here are some top tips on how you can build your own connection with nature:
1. FIND NATURE WHEREVER YOU ARE
Nature is all around us. It might be a garden, a local park, a nearby beach or open countryside, especially in the UK we are very blessed to have stunning countryside a train ride away from the cities. Even when in the cities, such as London, where nature can be harder to find, there are community gardens or courtyards to discover and explore. Look out for the unexpected – an urban fox on your way out for the early shift, changes in the weather or birdsong outside your window. Try to notice nature wherever you are, in whatever way is meaningful for you. The trees outside your window or walking through one of the many green parks can just relieve the stresses of the day with a simple stroll.
2. CONNECT WITH NATURE USING ALL OF YOUR SENSES…
This one can feel a little tricky to those that don’t practice or know mindfulness. Taking some quiet time to reflect in natural surroundings using all your senses can be a real boost to your mental health. Whether you’re relaxing in the garden or on your way to work, try listening out for birdsong, look for bees and butterflies, or notice the movement of the clouds, the trees swaying in the breeze. All of these good things in nature can help you to find a sense of calm and joy. When you start to notice these little senses, you start to close off the chatter in your mind, you start to feel more connection to the little elements around you, the light breeze rustling through the trees, can have such a calming effect on the mind.
3. GET OUT INTO NATURE!
Try taking some time to visit natural places - green spaces like parks, gardens woodland or forests – or blue spaces like the beach, rivers and wetlands. This can help you reduce your risk of mental health problems, just spending some time in the park, outside walking or taking a jog, reading a book in the sunshine, all can get you out of one headspace and transform your mood completely and very simply and help you feel better about things. If it feels daunting to get outside, try going with a friend or relative, or picking somewhere familiar. Nature is for everyone to enjoy, a simple stroll through the park or a trip to the seaside can really lift your mood. If you are stuck in a rutt or feeling trapped at home, go for a walk to your local green space.
4. BRING NATURE TO YOU !
Sometimes it’s hard to access natural places because of where you live, how busy you are, how safe you feel or your health. Bringing nature into your home is such a wonderful way to reap the benefits of the natural world without leaving your house! Having plants in the house is a great way to have something natural to see, touch and smell – pots of herbs from the supermarket are a good start. Watch them grow, touch the leaves and start to appreciate your plants.
If you have a garden, allotment or balcony, think about how you can make the most of it. Grow flowers, plants or vegetables, a bird feeder can be lovely to watch all the birds in your area, we have a family of Bluetits nesting in ours this year - take in the sights and sounds around you, enjoy.
5. EXERCISE IN NATURE
Exercising outside is fantastic – whether it’s a run, cycle or a short walk. Walking or running outdoors in nature may help to prevent or reduce feelings of anger, tiredness and sadness. You could even try leaving the headphones at home – unless you’re listening to nature sounds of course! Or why not try new routes that bring you closer to green spaces or water? The feeling of walking in nature and feeling the connection around you is a great way to start a mindfulness practice.
You can take your yoga mat outside! Or workout with a friend at the local outside gym (if you can get on them, those gyms are busy!) We love taking our mats to the garden, park or even to woodland. Once you get over your inital fear or nervousness, it is such a great way to shake up your practice and feel a deeper connection, mind, body and soul to the close relationshop we have with nature.
6. COMBINE NATURE WITH CREATIVITY
Try combining creativity with your natural environment. This could involve taking part in creative activities outside, like dance, music, or art. All of these things can help reduce stress and improve your mood.
You could also increase your sense of connection by taking photos, writing, drawing or painting pictures of the landscape, plants or animals. Noticing the beauty of nature and expressing this creatively can help you find meaning and an emotional connection to nature that will stay with you for a lifetime.
You could give it a try with a simple watercolour set and paper, painting leaves and flowers can be a nice way to relax, another great tool for mindfulness, to switch off the chatter in your mind and be present in the moment. Remember to put your phone away, though often when I’m painting I completely forget about it!
7. PROTECT NATURE
Taking care of something can be a really great way to feel good. And what better thing to take care of than nature and keeping it beautiful for the next generations? Nature is truly amazing – do what you can to look after nature - in your actions and choices. This can be as simple as recycling, to walking instead of driving, or even joining community conservation or clean-up groups, I actually can’t believe people throw rubbish into the countryside! Taking care of nature can help you feel that you're doing your part, and make you feel more positive all round. When you care about your home, your space, your planet, it helps you to care about yourself more and keeping positive mental health.
At Kati Kaia we believe strongly in supporting conservation work around the world. We do this with our collaborations and donations with every mat sold to Rainforest Trust UK.
Rainforest Trust UK are working with communities and organisations around the world to educate, buy land for conservation work and save bio-diversity from over-development in some of the most endangered areas of Rainforest and Woodlands.
Want to connect deeper with Nature? Download the free guide, ‘Thriving with Nature’ a guide by The Mental Health Foundation and WWF UK to explore how a deeper connection with nature can benefit us all.