It is Mental Health Awareness Week with this year's focus on the benefits of nature.
We must remember that we are nature. According to the UN, more than 55% of the global population live in cities and it is only in recent years that humans have moved away from living close to natural environments.
As such, it is more important than ever that we connect with nature more frequently
Many scientific studies have shown that chemicals produced by trees and plants have a positive effect on our immune system by releasing natural killer cells (NK). Spending time in green spaces enables quicker recovery from stress and fewer people experiencing depression.
Nature is part of so much of what is around us, not only plants but also mammals, birds and insects. Getting outside also means that we become much more aware of being in the here and now. The weather, be in clear blue skies, rain or wind; we feel it against our skin and through our hair and it changes the feeling beneath our feet.
The benefits of nature are as diverse as nature itself. Robin Wall Kimmerer, Author of Braiding Sweetgrass tells us that people can name significantly more brands than they can plants. Our lack of knowledge of plants, birdsong or the difference between a newt or a slow worm can be off putting when heading out and also lead to walks being less interesting.
However, going out and taking an active interest in what you see can have a positive impact. There are many online ID sites and as the RSPB and the Woodland Trust to help us identify what we see on the go. However, if you would rather have others help you, there are many wonderful groups out there including those found on FaceBook. One is the hugely informative
Groups such as these can mean that you can educate one another, show others what you find in your own area and share articles.
Taking a photo of what you see means that you can share it with others, not only sharing information, but also the passion of things you see. Discovering things that are in your back garden or neighbourhood can also help us in many positive ways.
Getting our hands dirty by gardening not only provides the benefits of being surrounded by positive plant bacteria but also the satisfaction of planting things, nurturing them and seeing them thrive whilst also positively impacting wildlife.
However, 2020 showed us that not everyone is able to get out easily or have access to outdoor space. So, whilst getting outside is beneficial, we can interact with nature in many other ways from the comfort of our own homes - reading about nature, writing about things we have seen, drawing animals, plants and trees we would like to learn more about, choosing a species or area that we want to learn more about...it's not all about getting outside!
The video below shows how nature helped people during lockdown.