World Mental Health Day: 8 simple ways nature can improve your wellbeing
The Mental Health Foundation & WWF-UK outline how the natural world can boost mental wellbeing
From the clean scent of trees and grass and the feel of the warm sun on your face, to a view that takes your breath away – there’s no doubt that the natural world can make you feel better.
Studies show a link between access to green space and better mental and physical health, and new research by the Mental Health Foundation has found 62% of adults who were stressed because of COVID-19 said going for a walk helped them cope, and 47% said being able to visit green spaces helped them too.
So, to mark World Mental Health Day, WWF-UK and the Mental Health Foundation have teamed up to produce a free guidebook, Thriving with Nature, which explores the relationship between nature, wellbeing and mental health, and features ways nature and people can help each other.
TV presenter Julia Bradbury, a long-time nature enthusiast, has written the foreword to the guide, and says: “For those of you thinking ‘I don’t have time to get to the mountains or big rugged landscapes’, a stroll in a city park, by a canal or around your local woodland can be just as reviving. And if you work in a dense urban jungle, it’s still worth heading outside into the light; a single tree can inspire as much joy as a ‘big view’.
“I believe it’s vital for all of us to spend time reconnecting with nature for our mental health and wellbeing. I really hope Thriving With Nature inspires you – and your friends and family – to get out and make the most of the amazing nature all around us.”
And Dr Antonis Kousoulis from the Mental Health Foundation adds: “Growing evidence suggests being in nature has a very positive effect on our mental health, providing protective and restorative benefits. We need to get serious about cherishing the natural world and acknowledge that human thriving depends on it.”
Here are 8 ways the Mental Health Foundation and WWF-UK suggest nature can boost your mental wellbeing…
1. Spending time in green spaces
Many studies have found links between access to green space, such as fields, forests, parks and gardens, and a reduced risk of mental health problems, improved mood, and increased life satisfaction. Other benefits of getting outside into nature include reduced stress, increased physical activity, and better health.
2. Finding nature in the city
Every city has its green spots if you look hard enough. So if you live or work in a city, take some time to find green spaces including parks, canals or courtyards. Research suggests that taking advantage of urban green spaces is also great for your mood and life satisfaction.
3. Getting active in green spaces
An important link has been found between spending time outdoors and how physically active people are. It’s well-known that exercise is good for physical health, but it’s great for mental health too, and research shows exercise like walking or running in green spaces boosts wellbeing and helps reduce anger, fatigue and sadness. And ‘green’ exercise doesn’t even have to be prolonged – one study found just five minutes of physical activity in green space improved mood and self-esteem, and if water was present the effect was even stronger.
4. Trying forest therapy
Forest therapy, or forest bathing, involves visiting a forest or doing therapeutic activities in a forest environment to improve your health and wellbeing. There’s nothing complicated about it – all you do is go to a forest and focus on the natural world around you. Studies show such therapy is an effective way to reduce depression. The idea was developed by the Japanese, and studies by the Japanese government have found two hours of ‘mindful exploration’ in a forest can reduce blood pressure, lower stress and improve concentration and memory.
5. Appreciating the autumn leaves
Take time to appreciate the beauty of the autumn leaf displays on the trees, crunch through fallen leaves, and pick up a handful and see what they smell like. Simple, natural pleasures can really boost your wellbeing.
6. Picking autumn fruits
If you’re lucky you might still come across some juicy blackberries on a walk – pick some and enjoy them, or take them home and do a bit of baking.
7. Enjoying wildlife
Some studies suggest that simply being around animals and wildlife might be good for your wellbeing – there aren’t many people who don’t like to see a rabbit or squirrel, or even a fox or badger, when they’re walking in the countryside. Spotting and interacting with wildlife in their natural habitat, perhaps by watching birds in your garden, can improve people’s feelings of wellbeing, relaxation, and connection to nature.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, make as much use of it as possible for the sake of your mental health! Evidence suggests people who spend time gardening experience a wide range of positive effects, including improvements in mood, quality of life and feelings of community. And a Royal Horticultural Society and Sheffield University study published this week found more than half of inner city residents given ornamental plants to put in their bare front gardens said the garden helped them feel happier, and lowered their stress levels.
Have you got a health question?
We've teamed up with AXA Health to bring you articles, information and tips from their clinical teams on a wide range of health topics. And if you have a question of your own, their, "Ask the Expert" service allows you to ask the team of friendly, experienced nurses, pharmacists and midwives about any health topic and they'll get back to you with an answer as soon as they’re able.* So if you have something that’s been bothering you, whether it concerns you or someone close to you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Click below to submit your query online.
* Nurses are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Midwives and pharmacists are available Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm; Saturday, 8am to 4pm; and Sunday, 8am to 12pm.
Actual response time will depend on the nature of your enquiry and availability of appropriately qualified experts but the team will always aim to get back to you within 24 hours.
Please note that our Expert Help services are there to offer health information and support. They do not diagnose or prescribe, and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice given in the context of an individual consultation.
The Press Association
Latest posts by The Press Association (see all)
- 6 of the best crime novels of all time to escape into - January 18, 2021
- 6 ways to rewild your garden and help save butterflies - January 18, 2021
- Baked Fish and Vegetable Parcels - January 18, 2021
- 8 things you’ll only know if you grew up without social media - January 15, 2021
- 4 nifty tips for living more sustainably - January 15, 2021
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!