World Mental Health Day

Posted by Karen in health benefits of nature

There is no health without mental health

Today, 10 October is World Mental Health Day. A day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. Too often people are afraid to talk about their experiences because they fear it will affect their jobs or relationships.

This year’s theme, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is young people and mental health in a changing world. The aim is to ‘bring attention to the issues youth and young adults are facing in our world today and begin the conversation around what they need in order to grow up healthy, happy and resilient’.

We all need to take care of our mental health, just like our physical health.

Research highlighting the benefits nature and green space have on our well-being and mental health continues to mount. In the words of biologist E.O Wilson, we have ‘a hard-wired disposition to connect with the natural world. It’s good for us!

Think about how you feel after you have spent time outdoors – I always feel more relaxed, grounded, alert, and clear-headed. Even from just a 20-minute lunch-break in the park.

I also see it time and again with the clients. They arrive on autopilot and at a fast pace, but then we walk across Victoria Park and their mind begins to clear as they slow down, relax and open up. I can see the stress and pressure fall away from their often-tense bodies

Walking in nature restores and resets our mind

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. The golden light, fresh air, earthy smells and stunning colours bring me right back to my senses, to a deep-set feeling of ease and contentment. I feel connection.

There is much to see, to take in, to explore and admire in nature. A walk in green space is a fast track way to relax – to unhook from devices and from an often highly stimulated, technology-driven, fast paced day-to-day life.

As human beings (not human doings) we long to come back to our senses, to experiences that allow us to feel a connection with the world.

Nature allows us to just be

It is true, nature ignites and stimulates us but it has a different effect on us than the stimuli of everyday life. Why is this?

The American couple Rachel and Steven Kaplan developed the Attention Restoration Theory that distinguishes two types of attention: directed and involuntary attention.

Directed attention requires mental effort and concentration – the individual must focus hard to process information and to stay with a task, for example at work. Nature captures our attention involuntarily, it happens effortlessly and so provides a ‘restorative environment’. Other studies now confirm this theory. Even a short walk in green space is enough to restore and reset the mind.

Clients often ask: “How do you relax? How do you bring balance into your life?” I always say that I go for a long walk in nature at least once a month. I go with a close friend. Every December, we schedule our monthly walks for the year ahead. Not only do we spend a day in nature but we also nurture our friendship.

Natural settings like local parks, nature reserves, gardens or the countryside are healthy spaces to take refuge in, away from the pressure of everyday life. Nature can boost our well-being offering emotional, psychological and physical benefits to help us deal better with stress and anxiety. Nature can help us feel more positive, gain perspective, feel more content, rested and reinvigorated.

Here are some tips that can help you get out and about and into nature regularly:

– Try to walk some of your journey to work and find out whether there is a park or green space on your way

– Spend your lunch time outdoors – find out which park or green spaces are around your work place.

– If you have a garden, sit for 10-15 minutes a day or a few times a week doing nothing but watching, listening and then noticing how you are. 

– Walk regularly in green space –  here’s a few starter ideas:

 – Saturday Walkers’ Club

 – The Ramblers

 – Wakehurst Place – Kew’s Wild Botanical Gardens in West Sussex

 – Royal Parks of London

 – National Trust offer many ideas for days out 

 – Walthamstow Wetlands

Do drop me a line or call me if you’d like to discuss ideas of how to get out into nature more often and to take the first step. And to make the most of your green-space moment, try the 4-3-2-1 exercise

You may also be interested in my Coaching Immersion Days in Nature:

  • – half-day coaching in one of London’s parks and green spaces, e.g. Kew Gardens (fee included), Richmond Park, Hampstead Heath, Greenwich Park etc.
  • – Full days of coaching in and around London – all you need to do is show up, relax and let yourself be guided by the powerful process of reflection, self-exploration, news ways thinking while being immersed in a beautiful natural setting of your choice.
  • – Coaching while hiking days on the South Coast of England (includes train tickets, lunch and snacks) – for those who love the intensity of self-exploration and change while being in the great outdoors.

Curious? Book your free initial coaching while walking conversations in Victoria Park, East London or via phone or video call to find out more about my Coaching Immersion Days.

I’ll finish with a quote from the World Federation for Mental Health; there is no health without mental health.

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