When bad things happen in life we need to call on our resilience to bring us back from feelings of fear, anger and sadness – and one of the ways we build our level of resilience is by ensuring our wellbeing. Often overlooked here is the part that nature plays in making us feel good about ourselves. We intuitively know the beneficial effects of spending time in nature but the body of scientific research backing this up is growing. A recent report from Natural England shows that taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental health problems and can contribute reducing levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. And in April, Peter James and a team at Harvard University published a study into the relationship between exposure to green spaces and mortality rates.
People who live in rural areas get a daily boost to their wellbeing merely by waking up and taking in their green and pleasant surrounds. City dwellers might rely on a day in the country or beside the sea for an occasional injection of well-being goodness. But if you can’t do either, do not fret – you can look elsewhere for small, daily doses of eco-therapy. Get a fix in the local park; connect with the trees in the street; observe the birds and the bees in your – or anyone else’s – garden; appreciate whatever scrap of green you come across in the city. Don’t just walk on by – look for nature’s grace wherever you can.
Then move it up a notch. Get down and dirty: plant something, nurture it, watch it grow, harvest it, eat it. Distract your mind from worry by marvelling at how nature works its wonders. All right, you may not have a garden or an allotment, but maybe you can become the fond owner of a window-box. After all, it’s the process that counts, not the scale.
I live in Manchester city centre and get my early morning fix of wellbeing in the form of a session at the gym. But I also take advantage of the walk there and back, through China Town, where I stop to check up on the trees and bamboo, and the detour through Sackville Gardens where I enjoy the grass and plants. And when I get back to my study, I have my window boxes to admire.
Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.