Nature and Mental Health: How nature makes us feel better


Nature and Mental health. A woman watching the sunset
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This last year has been tough for us all. Lockdowns and social distancing have had a huge effect on our mental health. It’s been no different for the people we support who are homeless. The emotional support we provide has been more vital than ever.

Like many of us, some of our clients turned to walking during lockdown. This is a great way for us to offer emotional support and check in with our clients. Being in nature also lifts our client’s spirits.

This week is Mental Health Awareness week. We’ll be discussing why nature can have a positive impact on our mental health, how you can connect with nature and some of the best spots in West Yorkshire to go for a walk, as picked by our clients.

What is Mental Health Awareness Week?

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place every year. This year it’s held from 10 – 16 May. The theme for this year is “nature and the environment”. Each year, Mental Health Awareness Week provides a chance to focus on achieving good mental health. It’s also an opportunity to start important conversations about mental health - including help and advice for mental wellbeing.

Nature and Mental Health

Many of us find that time in nature is good for our mental health. During lockdown, it was one of the few activities we could, and did, do.

While researching the mental health impacts of the pandemic, the Mental Health Foundation found that going for walks was one of the top coping strategies for dealing with the lockdown. 45% of us reported that being in green spaces have been vital for our mental health. And for those who couldn’t go outside, we turned to experiencing nature through our screens. Footage from webcams in wildlife saw their traffic increase by over 2000%.

Why nature makes us feel better.

There’s plenty of research to show that spending time in nature has a positive impact on our feelings of wellbeing. In one study in Mind, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside. Instead of feeling depressed, stressed and anxious, they felt calm and balanced.

Being in nature also makes us happier. A study by the Wildlife Trusts measuring the impact of being in nature found that it had a significant impact on people’s happiness. It’s not hard to guess why – nature has a powerful way of making us feel wonder, awe and gratitude – all positive emotions.

Finally, nature gives us the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Practicing non-judgmental awareness, by taking in our surroundings and using all our senses to experience nature reduces stress and increases feelings of empathy

Connect with nature.

For Mental Health Awareness week, the Mental Health Foundation is asking people to Take Action, Get Active throughout the month of May. They’re asking you to take part in half an hour of exercise outdoors a day.

This could be half an hour in your local park, countryside or garden. Many of our clients enjoy going for walks. We asked them to recommend their favourite places to go for a walk and connect with nature. You could use their answers as inspiration for your next walk! Here’s their suggestions:

  • St John's Evangelist's Church in the centre of Leeds is a great little spot to sit on the grass and catch the sun.
  • Holbeck Park near Holbeck Cemetery is a favourite for one of our clients, as they enjoy the impressive view of Leeds.
  • Roundhay Park, especially the walk around the lake
  • The Leeds Canal is a firm favourite for many of our clients
  • Lister park, just a mile outside of the centre of Bradford, isa great place to go for a walk, away from the city centre.
  • Horton Park, on the other side of Bradford, was also recommended by our clients. You can spend a quiet afternoon feeding the ducks!

Let’s all get outside for mental health awareness week. We know that being in nature has a positive impact on our wellbeing, it makes us happier, and it gives us the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Why not use our client’s recommendations as inspiration for your next walk?

We recommend checking out the Mental Health Foundation website. It has fantastic resources and guides for connecting with nature.

Whether you go for a walk in the countryside, your local park or garden, or take care of your house plant, share your images of nature on social media using #ConnectWithNature and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek – and tag us too! We’d love to see your photos. 

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