Mental Health Awareness Week: the benefits of connecting with nature
Two people walking through the woods

Published on

May 12 2021

Article written by Nicola Austin, Lantra's Digital Marketing Co-ordinator. 

Taking place between 10-16 May is Mental Health Awareness Week, the annual campaign hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. 

Launched with the aim of breaking down stigma and raising awareness of mental health, this year's theme is ‘nature’. The organisation is highlighting how connecting with the outdoors brings plenty of benefits such as increased levels of physical activity and social interaction, while decreasing levels of isolation and stress.

Many of us turned to the great outdoors during the months we were restricted to our four walls during the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic. For most, our one walk a day became the highlight of the 24 hours, with the brief change in scenery affording us a calming escape from the constant barrage of daily news updates and time in front of our screens.

Reconnecting with our local green spaces greatly helped us cope during the national lockdown. Local parks, woodlands and nature reserves in turn saw a dramatic increase in visitor numbers, with more than 40% of people stating that nature, wildlife and visiting local green spaces have been even more important to their wellbeing since the restrictions began.

The lockdown has most definitely helped me reconnect and appreciate my local outdoor spaces, along with the nature on my doorstep. The bickering house sparrows nesting in the garden hedge have proved a great source of amusement, along with watching the beautiful cherry trees in the park bloom and blossom. Discovering new walks in the local Warwickshire area has also become a real highlight, particularly during the beautiful bluebell season. Hearing a Skylark whilst walking near farmland might just have topped the list recently though!

It’s clear to see that the associated increase in outdoor exercise and time spent watching wildlife demonstrates just some of the positive impacts nature can have on our mental health and wellbeing.

Here are my top tips for connecting with nature this week:

  1. Set up a bird feeder – whether this is in your garden or simply a window feeder, birds will quickly find your new source of food, proving an entertaining break from the stresses of the day.
  2. Grow a plant or vegetable – it’s well known that gardening can help improve mood and wellbeing, so why not try and grow your own? Don’t worry if you aren’t naturally green fingered, some ideal starter plants include tomatoes, herbs or sunflowers, which can be cultivated and grown in indoor window planters. You never know, this might be the start of a new hobby!
  3. Find a favourite new walk nearby – looking for a new adventure? Why not try and head out somewhere new using trusted apps such as AllTrails or Walkingworld, or websites like GPS-Routes, for thousands of tried and trusted walks.
  4. Visit a bluebell wood – Between late April and early May, woodlands across the UK become carpeted by a stunning sea of purple flowers. Haven’t visited a display near you? Check out the Woodland Trust’s article on top bluebell woods to visit to find out more. (When visiting woodlands, please do remember to stick to the paths though, as the flowers are easily damaged.)
  5. Listen to your local birdsong – If you’re an early riser, the dawn chorus is the best time to listen to the local species of bird near you. Robins, blackbirds and song thrushes are generally the first birds to begin, with wrens and warblers emerging later. Looking to brush up on your bird song knowledge? Check out this comprehensive guide from the RSPB.
Blue tit and great tit at bird table

Mark Rowland Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: “Mental Health Awareness Week has grown to be one of the biggest awareness weeks in the UK. This year the theme is on nature and its central role for our mental health. During the week, we want to hear millions of people’s stories about how the natural world has supported their mental health.

We want the week to explore how everyone across the UK can connect with nature and experience the mental health benefits wherever they live.”

Mental Health in Land-Based Sectors

With the UK population spending more time outdoors, there’s definitely been a more positive emphasis and importance afforded to British land-based careers, such as farmers and park rangers, during the pandemic.

However, people working in the land-based sectors aren’t known for admitting when they need help, so it’s crucial for those around them to be able to recognise the warning signs. If you’re interested in developing these skills then a training course tutored online, approved and certified by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, could be the answer. To find out more, click here.

For more information about this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week campaign, including blogs, videos and Q&As, please visit the Mental Health Foundation website.