Mental Health Awareness Week

Touching a tree © Matthew Roberts

It's Mental Health Awareness Week, and there has never been a better time to take yourself outside and enjoy nature.

The warm weather, combined with all the wonderful sights of spring makes May a fantastic time to get outside, and with this week being Mental Health Awareness Week there is no better time to take yourself outside and enjoy nature.

The Mental Health Foundation estimates that 1 in 6 of us will have experienced a common mental health problem in the last week. When you think about the people that surround you every day that can be a scary statistic.

The good news is that there’s something free and easily accessible that can help. A recent report from Natural England outlines the evidence that there is a positive relationship between exposure to natural environments and improvements in mental health . Spending time in nature can restore your attention and improve concentration, reduce stress, and improve your mood.

We see and hear examples of these benefits every day, here’s what some of our volunteers, and participants on activities have to say:

“I find being in the forest restful, peaceful and brain calming” Participant on Woodland Therapy, a group for adults with mental health issues on the Isle of Wight.

“I feel more comfortable around people” Participant on our nature therapy sessions for young people in Winchester, run jointly with Winchester Youth Counselling.

“The sessions have been very relaxing and if we had the chance to go there again, I would say yes.” Student from Totton College, at a nature therapy pilot session at Testwood Lakes

“My volunteer job keeps me fit and encourages me to go walking on days when I might otherwise have stayed indoors instead” Trust volunteer

So where do you go to get your nature fix? Well, the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have so many wonderful places to explore, but you don’t need to visit a nature reserve to experience nature. Try any of the following:

1. Look up from your screen and out of the window- having a view of nature is a good start when it comes to feeling those benefits

2. Paint a nature scene on your wall, or hang a photograph of nature- images of nature can offer many of the same benefits as experiencing nature

3. Join one of our conservation groups- you feel better and you’re helping nature, it’s a win, win.

4. Join a nature therapy group which is right for you, take a look at our events page to see more information on Woodland Therapy on the Isle of Wight.

5. Grow something- you don’t need a garden to grow, planting up a simple pot with herbs or flowers that you can sit on your window sill works just as well

6. Come to an event, we have plenty of walks to get you exploring our reserves, as well as great family activities and dedicated groups for teenagers.

7. Photograph nature- put your smartphone to good use and record what you see. Taking time to notice nature focusses your attention and boosts your mood. Don’t forget to share your snaps

8. Stop and notice nature wherever you are. Wind your window down in traffic, count the flowers you find as you walk to work, look up in the trees as the bus drives past. Nature isn’t just on nature reserves, it’s everywhere, and the closer you look, the better you’ll feel.