This week marks the 26th annual World Mental Health Day, a yearly international event dedicated to raising awareness and diminishing the stigma surrounding the subject of our mental health.
This year’s theme is “mental health in a changing world”, which is especially pertinent in the modern age.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to hear people feel increasingly isolated or under pressure as social media and technology grow ever more sophisticated and widespread.
At Greenbelt, we know spending some time in the great outdoors can prove an excellent antidote to feelings of stress, anxiety or ‘burnout’ associated with hectic modern life.
There are a number of valuable benefits to be found through engaging with nature, and these can be physical as well as mental.
A reflective stroll through the woods can soothe nerves and promote feelings of relaxation and tranquillity, while a strenuous shift tending the vegetable patch can be good exercise – and will yield a healthy crop too!
However, you don’t have to just take our word on the link between open spaces and general wellbeing: a two-year council-funded project by the Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust found spending time in nature helped adults to process mental health issues and reduced their need for formal health services.
Environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan also assert spending time in the natural world (or even simply viewing pictures of it) has a beneficial effect on concentration and attention span, allowing people to ‘unwind’ and feel at ease.
Similarly, gardening activities can have a restorative effect by reducing stress and depression, as well as building skills and confidence. Coupled with the physical exercise involved, it’s one of the healthiest hobbies to have!
Nature can even benefit those who are immobile or otherwise unable to physically engage with the landscape: for example, studies have shown surgical patients who can see trees from their rooms tend to recover quicker and require fewer painkillers than patients with a view of a brick wall.
"The benefits of gardening really are prodigious," said Adam Griffin, a senior occupational therapist at Camali Clinic, a UAE-based centre for child and adolescent mental health.
"Not only can the exertions involved in digging, weeding, planting and pruning help your physical health, but they can also have a very positive impact on your mental health."
If you’d like to find out more fun ways to experience the natural world, remember to visit our website for great seasonal tips – such as how to have fun outdoors this Autumn!