Nature's role in good mental health and wellbeing.
Credit: Anya Campbell
Bethia: The south west of the UK has been buffeted by strong winds and rain this week. We were camping and got to experience the weather up close and personal. It felt great to be so connected to raw, wild nature. It was exciting, exhilarating, humbling and inspiring. It made me feel GREAT and reflect once again on how intrinsic nature’s role has been in my mental health. I think it boils down to two things for me:
Nature is a great reflector of our moods. We stood on the coastline this week and watched huge waves exploding against cliffs with incredible force - nature can be so powerful and dramatic. I felt connected to it, a feeling of solidarity - an expression of my internal state being reflected externally. The full range of human emotion can be seen in nature - envy, anger, happiness, fear, excitement. It’s all there and it’s a comfort to have nature’s company along the way. Art, poetry and music do the same - they give expression to what we often struggle to express ourselves.
For me, the natural world offers perspective too. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day personal experience. There’s nothing wrong with that - it’s a very human characteristic. But Storm Ellen made me feel small. As the wind buffeted our tent and the rain lashed down, it reminded me that I am not in control. There are forces much bigger than I am. I am one small part of a natural system that ranges from a grain of sand up to galaxies. The things I can control are my actions and my attitude to nature. I can take steps towards living in harmony with it as much as possible and avoiding thoughtless behaviours that damage it. Why not try it yourself? Let us know how you get on.
Credit: Anya Campbell
Jess: Having suffered from a form of postnatal depression called Perinatal OCD and having observed a very close friend of mine going through Postpartum Psychosis, I really do believe that mental health and wellbeing is not a subject to be taken lightly. Even if you haven’t suffered directly, all of us need to work on our mental state - even the smallest changes can really make a difference for the better!
Looking after your mental wellbeing does not just have to mean counselling, yoga, meditation or prescriptions (although these things definitely play their part). Be creative! Find the best fit for you. Therapy is more effective and powerful if it is tailored to your needs and motivations. A useful tool for me is the outdoors; green therapy! Somewhere green and leafy, wild and rugged - the more unfettered the better. Some people need to ‘nature bathe’. Sitting under a tree may work for you. I am more of a “do-er” than a “be-er”. I like to experience nature up close and immerse myself in it; identify it, wild swim, ride through it, walk up it - experience it through activity. The great thing is, that it gets you fit too!
Last year, a friend of mine suggested we start an outdoor parenting group. Fed up of bad tea in un-atmospheric village halls, we spent Wednesdays through winter (yep WINTER!), togged up and outdoors and boy is it beneficial! People come from far and wide with home-made bread and brownies to get back to basics. We make soup around the fire and do simple environmentally-focussed activities (if we feel like it) whilst our children frolic in the Devon mud and conquer the elements. Some people were unsure whether there would be enough for their children to do but we watch our children flourish and get creative, while we right the world with discussions of politics, art, nature - LIFE! This is the therapy I thrive on, finding great friends along the way.
With the confidence to find my own way and accept a combination of outdoor adventure, exercise and ecology (as well as a splash of red wine!), I am healthier, happier and fitter.
This morning I heard an amazing story of a man who responded to his own health crisis positively by setting up a scheme to help people with their mental health and wellbeing. He did this by harnessing and sharing his passion for the sea and surfing to create a movement called ‘blue health’. So clever!
Find your way, whatever it looks like. We’d love to hear about your journey to mental wellbeing, whatever stage you’re at!
You might like to have a look at these websites for a bit more info:
GROWnings is a weekly blog conversation by "GROW together!" to reflect our values and behaviours and encouraging open conversation on topical issues.
‘GROW Together!’ is an educational resources and subscription box company to provide fun, personalised learning resources enabling engagement between parents/carers and their children. The activities focus on getting in touch with nature and encouraging a desire to protect it, promoting better mental and physical wellbeing, allowing space for creativity and connectivity. Find out more on our website, www.farleigh.org.uk/growbox, Facebook group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/GROWboxDevon/ and on our Instagram Feed https://www.instagram.com/we.are.growbox/.