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Building a connection with nature for better mental health

There is more and more evidence coming out that nature has a really positive impact on people’s wellbeing and their mental health. For many people though, nature is not an important part of their lives.

In a study done by the National Trust and Derby University they found that only 19% of children regularly notice wildlife, 57% of adults rarely or never watched the sunrise in the last year and only 27% of people regularly watched the clouds.

All of these activities are completely free and have been shown to make us feel good so the question is, how can we improve our relationship and connectedness to nature?

Noticing nature

There are a few simple ways that you can simply notice nature more often in your everyday life. This simple awareness can be built into whatever time suits your lifestyle from noticing nature before you get into your car in the morning to organising family walks.

The noticing nature challenge

In the research carried out by the National Trust and Derby University (link below) they asked people to take part in the noticing nature challenge. The challenge covered a huge range of activities that people could do in nature and all the participants had to do was pick one of the following activities each day for a week.

So, are you ready to take on the challenge?

Here are the suggested activities:

Building awareness of the senses in nature

Considering the meaning of nature

Noticing the beauty of nature

Noticing your emotions in and about nature

Building compassion in nature

All you need to do to take part in the challenge is to pick one of the above activities and make sure you do it! You can repeat activities or do a different one everyday it really doesn’t matter just challenge yourself to notice nature for a week.

Here are some of the photos from my experiences of noticing nature:

Noticing different fungi in the local woods

Watching the sunrise

Seeing how the clouds change

Going for runs up hills for the view and on misty mornings

Why engage with nature more?

The results of this study were that there were a number of benefits to the participants. They reported that they were able to be more “in the moment” with nature, be more mindful and felt that they could “slow the pace of life” for a bit.  Overall people found the activities calming and relaxing.

For those people who took part in these activities with friends, colleagues or family members, they reported that they were able to create stronger bonds and more personal connections and experienced meaningful moments and made new memories.

Interestingly also, participants found that doing these activities often had to step outside of their comfort zone to do so and then felt accomplished and fulfilled for doing so.

All of these benefits are great ways to improve your mental health and wellbeing in general. So, if you do decide to give the challenge a go, let me know how you experienced it.

Here is a link to the research that this blog is based on, I would highly recommend taking the time to read it as there is so much useful information in there:  https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/documents/noticing-nature-report-feb-2020.pdf

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