Happy Wednesday everyone – we’re half way through and I hope everyone is having a good week.
If you didn’t know, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme for 2021 is Nature and the Environment. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing it’s inspired by the huge swathes of people noticing the benefits of being in the great outdoors during the pandemic. The sceptics amongst us might suggest this was due to the lack of anything else going on, but I choose to believe that a lot of people noticed the positive effect that taking time out of their busy lives to be at one with nature has had on their mental wellbeing.
I’m a runner. I’ve been a runner for quite a few years and it’s the only sport I’ve ever managed to stick to consistently. Part of the reason for this I think is because I like to run outside, I like the way that exercising outside makes me feel. A lot of people like the social aspect of running, but for me, I’ve always preferred running alone, I like the thinking time, the headspace and it’s where I get my best ideas. I often go out with a mashed up head, overflowing with things I want to start but no idea how to start and come back with a useful plan. For me, it’s mindfulness time … allowing my mind to just wander and free it up from ‘stuff’ that has occupied it during the day, things that might be stressing me out for example.
Being outside can be totally absorbing. Now I’m going to talk about my partner for the next paragraph, and I can do this because I know he doesn’t read my blogs… he says he does but I don’t think he does so this will test that theory. He is somebody who finds it hard to settle – he’s either busy or he’s bored and he’s no good at sitting still and doing something quiet like reading. For him, ‘crafting’ is when you make something for the house, like a garden arch out of copper pipe for example. An activity has to be useful otherwise it’s pointless. However, when he visited Seaham for the first time last year he was totally absorbed in sea glass hunting for 4 whole days! This really shocked me but it also suited me fine as it meant I came home with twice as much glass as I would have done on my own plus I didn’t have to think of things to keep him occupied! The point of this paragraph, other than to highlight Tom’s personality traits, is to prove that opening your mind to the possibility of enjoying new activities associated with nature and the environment can really give you some perspective and introduce you to things you might end up really enjoying.
If you already like walking or running, then here are my offerings on ways you can add something different to your regular stroll and see how it makes you feel:
Take photos – try to find a new perspective on a sights that you regular see (and have probably stopped noticing). Take a picture in black and white or choose a different angle.
Set up simple treasure hunts for your family or friends – challenge them to spot 3 things that are red whilst you are out for example.
Observe one new species of bird or plant, photograph it and try to identify it when you get home.
Smile and say a cheery hello to everyone you pass and notice the effect that this has on your mood.
Do a usual route the other way round.
Make a mental note of 4 things on your trip – one thing you can hear, something you can see, smell and something you can touch. I can’t add the 5th sense to this as I don’t want to be responsible for someone poisoning themselves!
And that’s it, stay safe, enjoy your new found freedom and get exploring the great outdoors with your loved ones.
Here's a link to some further ideas from the Mental Health Foundation in the UK. Our top tips on connecting with nature to improve your mental health | Mental Health Foundation