Nature’s calming effect on our body and mind can help to support our overall sense of positive wellbeing.

So far this wellbeing series has reflected on recent shared experiences during the pandemic. As we look forward to May, pandemic restrictions are beginning to ease at last. 

For some, the roll out of vaccines is a sign of a slow return to normality, for others the ability to move beyond the 5km stretch represents hope of an ‘outdoor summer’.  Long awaited positive changes are a welcome energiser to the pandemic fatigue many are experiencing.

In addition to these experiences, Earth Day occurred in April, an event often recognised as a global celebration of the natural world.  A global celebration like this can seem distant, disconnected from the everyday, perhaps making it hard to experience locally. However, an event like this, albeit a rather new one for our calendars, can inspire us to connect with and celebrate our rural towns, countryside, and local homesteads.

With these connections in mind, it can be a great opportunity to celebrate our own local environments, and reap the potential wellbeing benefits of being outdoors in gardens, towns, and countryside. 

Enjoying nature and its wellbeing benefits

Nature can be a readily accessible resource to support our wellbeing, reduce stress, and anxiety. This is because we are naturally inclined to de-stress when we are immersed in the natural world around us. But the benefits can expand far beyond reducing the negative impacts on our mental and emotional wellbeing.

As the first lockdown was underway last year many of us may recall re-discovering the bird song, and natural sights and sounds around us. During those tough times our connection with our local natural environment, be it in towns, villages, or countryside, gave us a boost that helped us through. 

This year we are beginning to look forward to our ‘outdoor summer,’ and so it’s important that we recall these benefits as it can remind us that nature can positively influence our senses.  With these benefits in mind, try taking time this week to kick start a new outdoor routine, get back out into nature, and tap into its natural wellbeing enhancers. 

Getting busy outdoors

The re-emergence of sports activities and opportunities to socialise outdoors are part of the conversation this month. These milestones will provide new opportunities to enjoy the benefits of the great outdoors and to enhance our mental and emotional wellbeing, but we do not have to wait for them. 

Try spending some time connecting with outdoor outlets this week – stepping outside our front door for some fresh air, getting our fingers green in the garden, or even taking a walk in town. Simple practices like this can have the added perk of shifting our focus away from negative thoughts, giving our minds a much needed break. 

Whether it’s for relaxation, variety, or keeping busy, getting outdoors can have many benefits in support of our mental and emotional health.  These can include reinvigoration from exercise, renewal from the return to normal activities, and energy from surrounding life in the outside environment. These positive effects can give us a beneficial bounce, leaving us with an enhanced sense of mental and emotional wellbeing long after we’ve returned home, or gone back indoors.  

Enjoying hobbies in nature

The benefits of getting outdoors can also be tapped into and enjoyed in quieter more personalised ways. Gardening and planting allows us to connect with the roots of the natural world around us. We do not have to have a big garden to experience these rewards – a small space, or even just tending plant boxes can provide us with a positive boost. 

Whether we are growing our own vegetables, planting flowers, or even tidying up the garden space, this can inspire feelings of achievement. It can also allow us to connect with our local environment in a new way, where we can observe the fruits of our labour grow over time, and enjoy the satisfying reminders of our natural contribution to our local space.  

If gardening is not for us, we can still enjoy the advantages of nature through hobbies, pastimes, or getting involved in safe community activities. Whatever our preferred hobby, nature can inspire us to think about our locality, new opportunities to engage with it, and the enjoyments it offers.

A final thought…

Nature’s gift of sights, sounds, and smells is available to us all the time, indoors and outdoors. Whether we are getting back into nature, spending time outdoors, or enjoying our hobbies, breaks, and pastimes in our local environment, nature’s calming effect on our body and mind can help to support our overall sense of positive wellbeing, as well as building our sense of resilience to face life’s challenges, and to enjoy life’s simple everyday moments. 

This post featured as a Monthly Wellbeing Series article in The Midland Tribune on 6th May 2021