May is recognized as the mental health awareness month. And, what better time than now to take a step ahead in spreading awareness about mental health.
So far, we have touched on several different topics surrounding mental health on our blog. From men’s mental health to childhood trauma, we have touched on several important aspects of the topic.
Today, we all are finding different ways to deal with a global pandemic. The ongoing crisis has given people a lot of reasons to fear, worry and be anxious. All of this has taken a serious toll on people’s mental health.
While we are dealing with all this, we are forgetting the cure to what is easily available to us - Nature.
Nature can be immensely beneficial for our mental health. Bringing a few changes into our lifestyle, connecting with the nature around us, spending time in the greenery has great effects on our mental and physical well-being.
While we are handling the situation amidst a pandemic, I won’t ask you to pack your bags and move to the mountains or go for a forest walk. You can do that once we say goodbye to the pandemic.
What can you do in nature?
Being in nature doesn’t necessarily have to be about going out and socializing with people or breaking the rules to live during our current situation of the fatal coronavirus. Instead, these can be as simple as:
- growing food
- star gazing
- flowering in your garden
- helping the environment
- visiting your local park during normal times
- connecting with the animals by dog walking or having a bird feeder
- bringing nature inside, have potted plants or flowers in your home
- waking up early morning to listen to birds and feel the soothing wind
- being consistent with your physical fitness outdoors (on your terrace or lawn or garden).
How can nature benefit our mental health?
Connecting with nature is the theme for this year’s mental health awareness month. Spending time in nature has been proven to help with mental health concerns like anxiety and depression.
Here’s how nature does its magic. It helps mental health by:
- Improving your mood
- Helping you to take time for yourself and feel more relaxed
- Inducing the feeling of awe for self and surroundings
- Helping you generate a sense of meaning in life
- Improving your physical health by making you more active
- Improving your self-esteem and self-confidence
- Helping you to socialize more and make new connections
- Improving your sleep
- Reducing negative thoughts and emotions
- Increasing your levels of serotonin (the feel-good hormone)
- Reducing the stress hormone
- Improving aspects of thinking like attention, memory, problem thinking, and creativity
There’s a lot more you can do. The options are as vast as the vastness of nature. Also, it is a personal choice. However, while we try to connect with nature, it cannot be as easy for some as it is for others.
What can you do to make your connection with nature?
An individual’s mental health concerns can sometimes push them to face barriers to connect with nature. One might feel unused to the greenery around or find it uncomfortable, you can get tired easily or find it difficult to put up with the physical activities. You can also find it a challenge to socialize or you might worry about the costs. You might even feel underconfident to bring this new change.
These difficulties or barriers can be different as per the mental health situation you have.
So, what should be done to avoid or overcome these barriers and take your steps ahead? Here are a few suggestions one can consider:
- Begin with small changes: The change doesn’t necessarily have to be a big, sudden change. You can start with baby steps. For example, noticing your lifestyle and the innate involvement of nature in it or just taking a small walk around.
- Do what comforts you: There is no point in doing something that doesn’t bring joy to you. Hence when trying something new, aim for the next step, something that helps you to feel relaxed. For example, sitting under a tree or walking in the garden. And, as you become comfortable with it, take the next step outside your comfort zone. For example, going for a long walk in the community park.
- Ask for help: As a mental health survivor, it is never wrong to seek help and support. When you find yourself feeling anxious about this new change, go ahead and seek support from the people around you. For example, ask people to accompany you to the new place or your new social situation. Rely on somebody you trust.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself: Not every change you want to incorporate will be easy to achieve. Some of them will take more time than others. And, therefore, you need to be easy on yourself and allow yourself to grow.
While therapy and virtual sessions are a great way to handle any mental health situation, we should not overlook what is already available to us. Nature has massive benefits for our mental, emotional and cognitive problems. And the best part, it is easily available and accessible to all irrespective of any differences. Also, it doesn’t cost you a thing.
Our connection to nature has been limited due to the running lifestyle we have adapted. But, looking at the positive side of the present lockdown situation, we have all the time we need to reconnect with our natural surroundings.
While we together fight the fatal pandemic, it is advisable to stay indoors and embrace the new normal. Connect with nature in whatever ways you can. The pandemic has had a severe impact on people’s mental health. As you continue using your therapeutic tools and techniques, make sure to take advantage of what is readily available for you.
Just looking out of your window at natural scenes, watching greenery around, or simply taking a walk on your terrace can be beneficial in the long run.