Escape into nature - How to be happier and healthier with nature

Jasmine Granton

Thursday 17 May 2018

A walk through a peaceful wood or strolling through your local park listening to the birds chirping can be the perfect tonic to a difficult day.

Whether you suffer with a mental health illness, are going through a difficult time in your life or simply feel the stress of day to day life we can all benefit from stepping outside and enjoying the natural world around us.

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year so as we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re reflecting on the ways we can be healthier and happier with a little help from nature.

Many things can contribute to feeling stressed, depressed or anxious. Exams, bereavements, caring for a loved one, unemployment or stress at work can have a huge impact on our overall health but studies have shown that spending time in nature can reduce stress and helps fight depression and anxiety.

We spoke with some of our wonderful members about their experiences with mental health and how nature provided a saving grace through difficult times in their lives or how they use nature simply to get through a tough day!

“I've had to deal with illness, depression, marriage break-up and loss of siblings, parents and close friends. At all times and in all instances the main thing that got me through was interacting with nature. Whether that was walking in woods, sitting on hilltops or by a stream, hearing the uplifting song of birds or watching them fly and knowing they are free. At all times, the only true solace I find is in being a tiny part of the wonder of nature and losing myself by surrendering to it.”

Kay Millard

“A few years ago I had cause to spend some time in hospital. I found it an awful experience. There was one ray of light though. Monthly trips with the RSPB local group. I found those days birding lifted me up for the whole month and gave me a lot to look forward to. A real life saver.”

Dean Wale

“I took the long route to work, walking through the fields at the edge of town before attending a much-dreaded meeting at work. As I passed through the trees, about to enter the urban sprawl, a family of fledgling jays shuffled to the end of a branch, attended by a parent bird. I spent several minutes completely absorbed by this beautiful spectacle. When I resumed my walk to work, the train of negative thoughts had been broken. I felt restored, renewed, and confident that I could cope with the day's challenges.”

Penelope Crockett

Although enjoying nature can be a great outlet when we’re suffering from a mental health related illness, it’s also important to include spending time outdoors within our week to week routine. As well as its ability to help us through difficult times, it’s also proven to improve short-term memory, eliminate fatigue, lower blood pressure and boost our immune system. 

Not everyone enjoys sitting and watching the world go by and with a huge amount of evidence that exercise is great for boosting your mood and decreasing stress, why not get active in nature? The RSPB runs Active in Nature activities across our reserves helping us to be happier and healthier. Whether you’re interested in yoga at Portmore Lough, running at Rainham Marshes or Nordic Walking at Sherwood, see what’s happening at a reserve near you or simply get out there and explore the wonders of nature around you.

Top tips for being happier with the help of nature:

  • Unplug yourself. Leave your phone, camera and all other gadgets at home. Technology can often be distracting and can limit the nature you see or hear.
  • Try and find at least one hour a week, whether you’re in your garden, local green space or an RSPB reserve to unwind and relax.
  • If you have children or grandchildren, get them outside and start them off young! Engaging children with wildlife at a young age is not only good for them but there’s also nothing like seeing the smile on their face as they go on a wild adventure.   
  • Nature can be a great way to connect with people. The RSPB has a network of friendly volunteer-run local groups across the country where you can meet like-minded people who care passionately about our natural world.
  • Equally, quality time alone is important and there’s nothing better than submerging yourself in nature with a good book. Or simply walk around to clear a busy mind.

Last Updated: Thursday 17 May 2018

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