Mental Health Awareness Week - Tips & Time in Nature

Mental Health Awareness Week - Tips & Time in Nature

Woman sitting in a park - Tom Hibbert

Around one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in a year. Mental Health Awareness Week aims to help people feel more confident to talk about their mental health and reduce the stigma that prevents people asking for help. Amelia Woolford, Volunteer Co-coordinator at Rutland Water Nature Reserve shares some top tips on how to improve our mindset.

After an extremely stressful year, our wellbeing has never been more important. Now that everything is starting to return to normal, it is important to reflect on the time we gained over lockdown and how we readjust to living life at a full pace once again.

The theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is Nature. Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation explains why; 

" Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world. For most of human history, we lived as part of nature. It is only in the last five generations that so many of us have lived and worked in a context that is largely separated from nature. And it is only since a 1960's study in the US found that patients who were treated in hospitals with a view of nature recovered faster, that science has started to unpack the extraordinary health benefits.

Nature is our great-untapped resource for a mentally healthy future.

Despite this, many of us are not accessing or benefitting from nature. Teenagers in particular appear to be less connected with nature and around 13% of UK households have no access to a garden. We want to challenge the disparities in who is and who isn’t able to experience nature. Nature is not a luxury. It is a resource that must be available for everyone to enjoy - as basic as having access to clean water or a safe roof over our heads.”


Jon Hawkins - Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Throughout the pandemic, nature played a critical role in our lives; helping many of us cope with the stress of the situation. Spending time outdoors can generate a feeling of calmness, joy and help improve feelings of depression or anxiety. 

Staying connected to nature will be really important post-lockdown and there are lots of things you can do to help bring nature into your life:

  • If you have a garden, spend as much time as you can there. Think about what you could do at this time of year in the garden. Think about the wildlife that uses it, and what you could do to support it.
  • If you don’t have access to a garden, spend time with the windows open, to let in the fresh air. Try and create a beautiful space with a window, where you can feel the breeze on your face and just watch the world. Maybe listen out for bird song, the sound of the breeze through the trees, or simply watch the clouds moving in the sky.
  • Go for a walk and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and scents of nature! Nature is all around us, whether you live in the country or city, see what you can find near you. 
  • If you struggle to find time to get out to green spaces or don't have access to any, bring nature to you. Put some plants around your house, put a bird feeder on your windowsill or connect to nature through stories, art and TV programmes. 
  • Take your exercise outdoors. If you are able to, why not cycle, run or walk in nature. You could even do yoga in the garden and listen to the sounds of nature while you are doing it. 
  • Think about what you can do to help nature, whether it is switching to a green energy provider, reducing plastic waste or making your own compost. These simple steps will help the environment and make you feel more positive about the difference you are making. 
people in nature

Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) in flight over people in Parade Gardens Park looking out for food scraps to scavenge, Bath, UK, March. Photographer: Nick Upton - Nick Upton/2020VISION

As well as connecting with nature, here are some other things we can do to improve our mindset:
Create a routine:

For most of us, our normal routine has been changed. It’s important to spend some time creating a new routine for yourself, but still keep elements of what you used to do – such as getting up and going to bed at the same time or having your meals at the same time. 

Connect with people:

Take time to connect with those around you, this is not only important for you but also for those who will benefit from hearing from you. Loneliness can have a big impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. If you can, try video call rather than text to keep it more personal and think about those who don’t have many people to connect to. 

Try to keep active:

Keeping active is incredibly beneficial not just your body, but also your mental health. Here are some different ideas to try:

  • Cleaning your home (it is spring clean time after all!)
  • Dancing to music.
  • Online or in-person exercise classes, this could be anything from a simple seated stretch to a full workout.
  • Reminders to move – try and set yourself little reminders to move each hour, this will help to stretch the body and release any tension.


Binoculars at sunset

WildNet - Zsuzsanna Bird

Keep your mind stimulated:

There are so many ways we can keep our mind active; maybe try the crossword in the paper or read a new book. Click here for some of our top wildlife book choices. 

Keep your body healthy:

We have talked about many ways to keep our body healthy and fit at this time, but also think about what you are nourishing it with.  Make sure you are getting enough water, and plenty of fresh produce.

active in nature

People walking in Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, Scotland. - Peter Cairns/2020VISION

Try Volunteering

The simple act of giving your time to those in need – is hugely beneficial to your community. Volunteers play a vital role in the work of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. With hundreds of committed volunteers, we are achieving great things and with your help, we can do so much more. Each volunteer brings with them knowledge and enthusiasm which really makes a difference to the work of the Trust. Protect threatened wildlife, have fun and meet people who share your interests - and benefit from feeling happier, healthier and more connected to nature!

Find out more about volunteering with Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

Whether you feel like your problem is big or small, do try to talk to someone about it. It could be a health professional, family, friends, or sometimes a stranger – if you can, try to open up. Discussing our feelings can really help to work through them, and challenge why you think or feel a certain way. I know this can be a huge step, but just send a text, make a call, and talk. 

 Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week