Renfrewshire Council

Photograph of a woman walking down a path in a sunlit forest

Five ways to support your wellbeing by connecting with nature

Diane Connor, one of our Senior Health and Safety Officers, looks after our wellbeing programme. With years of experience in the sector, she recognises how important good physical and mental health are to our overall wellbeing.

Here she shares some first-hand advice and tips for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) 2021.

"The NHS 5 Steps to Wellbeing model is a tried and tested way of improving and maintaining good mental health and is now a widely used support tool recommended by NHS services across the country. 

The theme of this year's MHAW is 'Nature'. With many of us reconnecting with nature in some way over this past year to help us to cope with the challenges of the pandemic, I couldn't think of a better theme for MHAW 2021.

So, I've taken inspiration from the NHS model and would like to share with you the five key ways you can enjoy the benefits of connecting with nature. Some of these ideas are great for entertaining children or spending time with friends, and others you might prefer to keep just for yourself."


1) Take time to notice your surroundings and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature

Mindfulness outdoors

Find a nice spot and sit or lie down. Be still and think about how you feel. You can even try 'woodland bathing' - sitting in a wooded area, being still and enjoying the sounds, colours, and smells all around you. Do you know your plants and trees - you could use the PlantNet Plant Identification App and experience identifying nature.

Water

Not only is water the healthiest drinking choice, but simply watching the flow of water outdoors like in a river or the sea, listening to the sounds and focusing on the majestic shapes that the water makes can be very soothing.

Listening to dawn or dusk chorus

nature's symphony is particularly beautiful at these times. But listening to birds at any time of day can be a relaxing and uplifting experience. Why not learn to identify different birds through the sounds they make? You can use this RSPB Bird Song Identifier or download the RSPB Birdsong Radio app on your phone to help work out who's singing what.

Plant something and watch it grow

it's so gratifying to see something grow from a tiny seed into full bloom. What better way to connect with and appreciate nature? 

Cloud spotting

a fun game for all the family. What shaped can you see in sky? What stories are unfolding up there?

Patterns in nature

nature is full of amazing patterns that have inspired creatives for thousands of years. What will you spot?

Look for insects

watch how they move and go about their day. Watch its journey closely and let yourself share in that world. Are you a budding David Attenborough?  You could use the Insect Identifier Bug Identifier Spider Identifier app to take a picture, and learn more about your new insect friends.


2) Get Creative

Natural art

Use objects from nature (blossom, twigs, stones, leaves, sand, shells...) to create a design or pattern. Take pictures, to preserve your natural artwork!

Sketch or paint outdoors

Great artists like Monet and Vincent Van Gogh have always appreciated the importance of nature and art. Take a leaf from their book and capture the natural world by painting or sketching 'en plein air' (outdoors).

Pressing flowers

This is a beautiful way to be creative with nature. Preserve the life of flower the traditional way using books or by using a microwave. You can create pictures or even greetings cards to give to others.

Create a garden or flower bed

Research then design your own garden/flower bed to attract local wildlife (butterflies, bees, birds). You can use the RSPB Giving Nature a Home mobile app, which gives you weekly garden activities for all size of gardens. 

Compose music

If music is more your thing, try listening to the sounds of the great outdoors and let it inspire some original music.

Create a story stick

Put some elastic bands on a stick and then collect items along the way as you walk through a natural environment. Once home you'll have a unique memento to relive the adventure.


3) Be Active

Take a scenic walk or a cycle in the countryside

There's no shortage of that here in Renfrewshire. Visit the paisley.is website for lots of great ideas and information on exploring the great outdoors in Renfrewshire.

Play outdoors

Why not try the Nature Passport App which helps kids and families play outside for any environment backyards to parks.

Nature treasure hunt

Go for walk with a list of specific items you want to find e.g. a stone that's not round, feathers of various colours and sizes, blossom, specific shape or colour leaf, something from each colour of the rainbow and/or school colours - record your treasure on digital camera or tablet.

Litter picking

A great way to give something back and take care of our environment. It's also a good way of connecting with others!


4) Give to Others

Gift a fragrance that isn't expensive

Grow herbs! Herbs like mint are ideal, grow them in little pots and give as a small gift to family or friends.

Create bug hotels

Hedgehog houses, bird feeding stations, miniature gardens on a plate (with gravel, pinecones, succulents, twigs, leaves...) are rewarding ways give to local wildlife.

Wear nature

Daisy chains and willow bands are beautiful and easy to make, give them to friends or family for a special gift.

Share your favourite place outdoors

Introduce a friend or family member to your favourite place outdoors. It's a great way to connect with others while enjoying nature.


5) Connect with Others

Growing together

Growing flowers and plants as a joint project with friends or family is a great way to connect. For fun, why not try a fast-growing plant like cress. Stick it in an eggshell and draw on a face, then cut the cress into a crazy hairstyle!

Listening together

Choose a partner to sit outside with and see how many different sounds you can hear.

Watching together

Bird watching or insect watching can be just as much fun if not more with someone else.

Gardening together

Do you know someone with a garden or allotment? Maybe there's a community garden near you. Why not offer your assistance and help to care for it together.


I'd like to finish by adding in a nice quote from the Mental Health Foundation as they sum up nature and the positive impact on our mental health perfectly:

"It is not just being in nature but how we open ourselves up and interact with nature that counts" and the fact that "even small contacts with nature can reduce feelings of social isolation and be effective in protecting our mental health, and preventing distress" thus making nature "our great untapped resource for a mentally healthy future".

Diane


Have you tried any of the above, or found connecting with nature has helped you cope during the coronavirus pandemic? We want to start the conversation about mental health and are keen to hear from anyone who is willing to share their story.

Let's help our workplace to become a better, more supportive place.

Open up and send your stories to internal.communications@renfrewshire.gov.uk.