This year the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK was nature. There is, without doubt, a health benefit of being in nature. Most of us can agree that being outdoors and being active has a positive impact on our bodies. But what about our mind and soul? Is there a benefit from being in nature on our general wellbeing?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines wellbeing as being happy and healthy. We can then say that it’s a state where we feel we are in a good physical or mental condition. We reach it when we find the balance in our mind, body and soul. When they are in harmony, but how is nature helping us to achieve it, you may ask?
Benefit of Being in Nature
For humans, it is natural to live outdoors although this has, without a doubt, changed over the centuries. We became domesticated, indoor creatures. But when God created the world, he placed humans in a garden. It was their natural habitat. God gave us the world to enjoy. This may be perhaps the reason why nature has such a profound impact on our wellbeing. It’s in our DNA. Or is it maybe because of the green colour found in nature? After all, green often symbolizes the natural world and represents tranquillity. Whatever the reason, there definitely is magic in nature.
Benefit of Being in Nature on our Body, Mind and Soul
Disconnecting from the everyday stress of work, technology, social media and connecting with nature and finding peace and tranquillity helps us see God and to appreciate His creation. And the best thing is, we don’t have to travel for miles or to a different country to find this.
If the pandemic did teach me anything, then it is that beauty can be found all around us. That actually, the more the world slows down, the more enchanting the natural world becomes. We just need to be willing to see it. Appreciate the greatness and examine the beauty of God’s creation. The mountains, forests, lakes and rivers, ocean and seas, sky and fields, their charm, colours, shades and shapes. All of these God created for us to enjoy, and we should preserve them for the next generations. As a friend of mine says, “Nature is God’s Cathedral“.
But how many times do you go for a walk in your closest forest or field? How many times did you go for a swim or kayaking near you? Summer started almost a month ago, and it offers you the best opportunity to do so. So what are you waiting for? Go to nature to make discoveries, explore new places or participate in outdoor activities. It serves as a refuge to inspire, discover, reflect and heal. No wonder we sometimes use the expression that, ‘Nature is the best therapist’. There is proof that the outdoors aids healing, lowers our stress level and improves our mood and generosity.
Have you noticed how being in nature helps to reduce your muscle tension and anxiety? It has a positive effect on your immune system and recovery, helps to lower your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure. After my accident, as soon as I could stand on my own feet, doctors have been ‘prescribing’ walks for me. Even if it was as short as five minutes out, it has a health benefit for our wellbeing. It has been scientifically proved that even as little as five minutes in nature helps to improve your positivity and happiness. And this is essential in recovery. Nooshin Razani, a paediatrician and director of the Center of Nature and Health at Children’s Hospital Oakland in California, confirmed the positive impact of nature on healing as well as cognitive function and trauma response.
Benefit of Being in Nature on our Mental Health
The traumatic event that happened to me caused physical and mental injury. Being diagnosed with PTSD at the beginning of the year, nature became my safe place. No cars, traffic, the buzz of everyday life. It’s an escape for me. And I’ve learnt to escape from my mind during my walks too. I feel so much more connected to God out there, focus on His creation, take in the magic of it, inhale the fresh air and the beauty of the surroundings and exhale the fear. Being outdoors has helped me not only to clear my mind but also to regain focus.
I’ve become much more observant. Although it may be because suddenly I wasn’t able to walk at the speed I used to. However, it is more likely that it was because I was so much more present. To manage my PTSD symptoms, I would practice mindfulness and apply grounding techniques. These would help me to be present, rather than allow my mind to get distracted. It allows me to transfer my anxieties onto the scenery.
Have you ever tried mindful walking? Again, you don’t need to go far away… You can actually do it even in your garden, but if you want to be more adventurous, you can try it in the forest or on the beach. You may want to take your shoes off and just stand on a spot and notice your feet on the ground. What can you feel, and how does it feel? Next time when you are out, try to pay attention to your breathing or try to guess how many grains of sands or soil are there under your feet. Slow down, focus on your breathing, on your senses. What can you hear or smell?
So why not go in nature to be healed, soothed and have your senses put in order? Think of all the benefits being in nature has on your wellbeing. And of course, the advantage of the broad accessibility, low cost and flexibility it offers.
With God’s Help I can Help Others too
The health benefit of being in nature has been visible during my recovery. Eight months after my accident, I’m making progress. No more crutches, and living in a picturesque location surrounded by a national park from one side and sea from another is also a blessing. And with Summer being here, there is no better time for nature walks.
And that’s the reason why I’ve decided to use this time to not only do something that will benefit my wellbeing but also help those who helped me when I needed it. I spent almost two weeks in hospital after my accident and I have to take my hat off to the NHS staff. I wanted to thank all the staff at St Richards’ Hospital in Chichester for their compassionate care and support.
I’ve therefore decided to raise money for them and am currently preparing for my challenge – walking around the Isles of Scilly (UK) this August. Whilst the plan had been to go to Wales my accident meant that there was no way that I would be able to climb Snowdon this summer. The realisation initially hit me hard but I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit the Isles of Scilly. Whilst a very different type of terrain, I’m sure we will enjoy our trip just as much. And the best thing about it is that by doing so, I can also help others.
The challenge I’ve chosen to do is a 10 miles walk around the perimeter of St Mary’s island. St Mary’s is the largest and most populous island of the Scilly Isles. Walking the 10 miles will be challenging. My record so far since the accident is 6 miles in one day and this was followed by a couple of days in bed with pain afterwards. But I’m making progress and still have few weeks for preparation. So I’m confident that with the support of you all and with God’s help I’ll be able to complete the walk, especially as I know that it’s for a good cause.
I’ve teamed up with Friends of Chichester Hospitals, and all donations will go to them. The Friends are proud to be entirely volunteer-led and support St Richard’s Hospital and local mental health services. This means that all the money raised will go directly to making a real difference for patients, visitors and staff.
If you would like to support me and donate please use the link Crowdfunding to support St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester on JustGiving
Thank you so much for your donations and all your support.
Follow Journeyofsmiley to see how I’m progressing with the preparation for my challenge and how the big day will go for me.