Tomorrow marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (10th – 16th May) and for the month of May I am taking part in Take Action, Get Active whereby you raise money by spending 30 minutes exercising outdoors. The theme for this week, this year, is Nature, by spending time outdoors it can help to reduce your stress levels and by taking time to really notice the sights, sounds, smells and what nature feels like, will help you to connect with nature and have a positive impact on your mental health. It has certainly been a massive help with my anxiety.
For me, I am walking and/or running for 60 minutes a day, I usually go out for 30 minutes a day, so wanted to push myself and create a challenge, and having to find an extra 30 minutes a day to go outside, can be a squeeze some days. But one week in and I am loving it. I may be going out for an hour walk in the morning before work or splitting it so I do 2 x 30 minutes a day. However I do my 60 minutes, I’ve been paying attention to what’s around me in nature, what birds are about, what flowers are blooming, paying attention to the calm or wild waters, If I’m walking through the woods then I make sure to touch a few trees and to actually feel their bark.
So far, no matter how I feel when I start my challenge, by the end of it, I always feel lighter, happier and more upbeat. I am not someone who jumps out of bed ready and eager to begin my day, but knowing how great I feel once i have completed, pushes me on. Being outdoors for me, lights me up, it makes me smile….just noticing all the lovely birds that are going about their day, some we cross paths with and I’m lucky enough to take a photo of before they hop or fly away. Being close to the water, listening to it as it laps against the shore on a calm day, or truly batters the rocks on a wild and windy day is powerful, every day can be so different.
I know I am very lucky to have woodland, the sea and lots of countryside where I live, so I don’t have to go too far to find nature, so you may be thinking that because you live in a flat with no garden and you live in a city that nature isn’t easily available to you. Just look out of your window and up at the sky, look at the clouds, watch how they change when it’s sunny to when its raining. Do you see any birds landing on any rooftops? Why not go out to a local park or to where there are some lovely gardens to observe and spot nature there. Maybe you work in an office building and have trees or greenery around you. Could you see about putting up some bird feeders outside? I used to work in a building that had attached a bird feeder to the window – it was great to see the birds appear….the day a parrot turned up…well that’s another story!
Why not bring outdoors in, buy some indoor plants, that give your house and you a lift, make sure you water them as required – don’t ask me how often, I’m not good with plants! Maybe find or take some photos of the outdoors and then print them off and hang them in your house. Perhaps you are good at drawing or painting, why not create your own masterpiece of the outdoors.
One thing we can all do is notice the weather, notice how it makes you feel, does the sun shining make you happier, does the rain bring you down. If by observing it, it makes you feel one way, then go for a walk and see if your feelings change. Rain for me can be refreshing, it almost washes away any feelings of sadness or negativity, it gives me a boost. The snow always brings out the playful side in me, I wish and wish that enough snow falls for me to build a snowman as it’s just the best feeling ever!
We are all so connected with nature, we used to live outdoors and use nature in our day to day living, but somewhere along the way, we started to forget about it and not pay attention to it as much as we should. We can learn and have learnt so much from nature, lets continue to notice it, to live in it and pay attention to what’s outside our own front door.
To follow me on my challenge, I post daily to Twitter with an update on what I’ve been doing outdoors that day along with some photos. Every day is different, regardless if I do the same walk, I see many things and sometimes I get a surprise, like when I came across a robin basking in the sun, or a heron in the water.
No matter what you do this week, make sure you take some time out for you, in nature if you can, to look after your mental health. Being outdoors may just be the start of your journey towards good mental health.
Take care, look after you and have a great week.
Love Emma xx