Mental Health Awareness Week: II

Kindness & The Great Outdoors

To share the message during Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re exploring ways to use kindness to

overcome fear and instead build a sense of community, support and hope.

Today we focus on how local residents can come together to support one another and their community by harnessing the power of the natural environment.

First, here comes the science bit. A World Health Organisation report and related research have all shown nature can improve our physical and mental health.

NHS studies show having access to local green spaces, including wooded areas, combats mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, while also making us feel good physically.

Forestry Commission research suggests outdoor education in woods and forests, in particular, provides social, mental and physical benefits for children.

In fact, wooded areas are great places to go for family walks and runs, offering the chance to exercise – which can also help reduce risks of certain forms of cancer, diabetes and dementia.

Greenbelt’s Services Manager (UK), Donald Ferguson, has presented a dissertation exploring the link between the environment and health to the Landscape and Wellbeing International Conference in Lisbon.

His study found our surroundings can have a significant impact on performance when exercising – with open spaces like parks and mountains seeming to impart greater levels of concentration and motivation, compared to urban settings or indoor gyms.

“The idea our wellbeing is linked to the quality of our green spaces seems instinctive to many of us,” says Donald.

“The study of the connections between environment and health dates back to ancient cities in Greece, China and Persia.

“In a time when Western societies are facing growing mental health problems and stress-related illnesses, it’s important to recognise the connection between landscape and our health – mental or physical.”

With this in mind, Greenbelt actively encourages the formation of Residents’ Associations in developments, as well as community groups – working together in this way, residents can help share the message that green spaces offer a safe and fun place to forge life-affirming friendships that can last a lifetime.

While sticking to the current guidelines, such as responsible travel, meeting and social distancing, we can show great kindness to one another by sharing our love of the natural world.

Enjoying conversations and getting to know neighbours in a communal and beautiful environment can contribute to an immense feeling of social and personal wellbeing.

This is why we will continue to work hard to ensure open and green spaces are maintained to the highest possible standard – knowing that mental health benefits can come from the services we provide only encourages us to work even harder.

You can discover here how you can become involved with the Mental Health Foundation’s 2020 event and help raise awareness.

You can also watch a fantastic animation on why kindness matters so much here.

Please do take every opportunity possible – while enjoying those all-important government guidelines – to enjoy Greenbelt’s green spaces safely and with kindness!