As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, I would just like to take some time to reflect on the past week and how I have connected with nature and my mental health.
This week I spent time in my garden admiring how full the surrounding trees have gotten and watching birds fly overhead. I engaged all my senses by smelling flowers, listening to bird sounds, feeling the sun on my face, and later watching the rain fall on my windows. I was able to appreciate the sense of calm my encounters with nature brought me.
Then it dawned on me that it is often in times of stress that I forget about the power of nature and do not utilise these free resources I have at my disposal. In fact, its in the moments that I need to connect with nature the most that I seem to have trouble disconnecting from technology. In an age of computers, smartphones, and expectations about productivity, it can be difficult to make time to just sit, look and listen to the natural world. Yet nature not only improves our mental health by reducing stress, it also has restorative benefits (Berto, 2014). This week has reminded me that I need to engage with my environment at all times, but even more so during times of high stress when I am having extended periods of sustained mental exertion, such as when I am working on my doctoral thesis.
We all tend to take our health and wellbeing for granted until something goes wrong which brings it to our attention – which is why campaigns like #mentalhealthawarenessweek are important as they remind us to be aware of our mental health and identify resources at our disposal to improve or maintain it.
I hope that you have had the opportunity to spend some time this week reflecting, talking, engaging with all aspects of mental health. But if you haven’t, it’s not too late. Mental health awareness isn’t just about this one week. The campaign ending does not mean we stop engaging with mental health topics, including reducing stigma associated with mental ill health. Mental health awareness is a year-round endeavour and I hope that the conversations started this week, continue.
Photo courtesy of FotosbyFabro
Berto R. (2014). The role of nature in coping with psycho-physiological stress: a literature review on restorativeness. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 4(4), 394–409. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs4040394