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Boost your mental health with nature’s medicine

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Mental Health Awareness Week

As last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and in light of new research which showed how the emotional well-being of young children in particular, has been adversely affected by lockdowns, we are exploring the extraordinary power of nature and the different ways to assist with keeping us all stay emotionally and physically healthy.

The healing power of nature

There can be no greater natural stress reliever than being outside in nature.

In more peaceful surroundings, the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies is reduced, and our minds are more likely to feel rested and happy. We can unplug from the hectic pace of modern life and observe the magic nature has to offer.

Apparently, it can take as little as five minutes of walking in a field or around a park to boost mood, improve concentration and increase our feelings of self-esteem!

Go to the sea-side

Blue spaces (for example being at the seaside, in a boat on a lake or wild swimming in rivers) are actually more beneficial for mental health than green spaces!

These environments tend to be quieter (OK, maybe not Bournemouth in August, but you get the idea), less polluted, have higher levels of sunlight for that all important vitamin D and are overall calming.

Water has a psychologically restorative effect – the motion of waves, or weightlessness in water for example, soothes and allows you to tune into the calming rhythm of nature.

Ratty was spot on when he said in Wind in the Willows, “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing- absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)

The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku is a process of relaxation, an exercise in ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’.

It’s a simple act of spending time being calm and quiet among trees, observing nature and breathing in deeply.

There is indeed something magical and mood enhancing in the thought of bathing in warming sunbeams filtering through leafy forest canopies, watching the dapple light hit bluebells and dew-covered moss.

Forestry England’s website has some great tips and activities for forest-based meditation journeys – see here. https://www.forestryengland.uk/

Sow and grow

Gardens are special, peaceful spaces with restorative qualities that can work wonders when we are stressed and under pressure.

The process of growing something also gives us a sense of purpose and achievement, boosting confidence and self-esteem. Gardening provides the opportunity to literally get to grips with nature and touch and feel the soil – which contains bacterium which can stimulate serotonin production which makes you relaxed and happier!

Observing something grow allows you to be present in the moment and helps develop patience and resilience, there’s also nothing sweeter than getting the kids involved in the process too!

Be a wild thing!

Having the opportunity to scramble up trees, build hideout dens and practise bushcraft skills allows us to step outside of the modern, fast-paced lifestyles which can often cause stress and practice mindful activities.

Within a green setting, not only are we in a calming environment – but undertaking activities such as whittling or fire building is a rewarding, mindful activity, allowing us to slow down, tune into nature and be present in our natural environment – a very popular activity children get to  participate in at one of our Active Adventure Camps!