Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019) aims to raise awareness of mental health issues. The theme this year is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.
Various studies have found that spending time in nature, exercise, such as walking, and mindful craft activities can all have a positive impact on our mental health.
With this in mind, here is our pick of the best country walks, mindful crafts and nature volunteering ideas.
Walk in the countryside
In recent years, a number of studies have found that walking in the countryside can boost mental health through the reduction of stress and levels of depression and the promotion of self-esteem. Exercise in the outdoors can also, of course, improve physical health and researchers have found that even just living near to green spaces can boost feelings of well-being.
Guided walking group on hillside track heading toward Storey Arms in the Brecon Beacons National Park ©Getty
Did you know that May is National Walking Month? Find inspiration for walks with our pick of the best routes in the UK.
Join a walking group
From improving your health and fitness to making new friends, joining a walking group has many benefits. Our guide on walking groups looks at the many benefits of rambling with others and how to find and join a walking club in your local area.
How to join a walking group
The walking group on route through the woods (Justin Foulkes)
Try forest bathing
In Japan, the practice being investigated is called shinrin-yoku, which translates as ‘forest bathing’ (all that is necessary to ‘bathe’ is that you spend some time soaking up the woodland atmosphere). Scientists are tracing the effects that time spent in forest environments has on the body and mind, with early trials suggesting positive results. Read more about the benefits of forest bathing.
More forest and woodland content:
Take part in wildlife or environmental volunteering projects
A recent study found that wildlife volunteering can significantly improve mental health, with two thirds of participants reporting improved feelings of positivity six weeks into the volunteering scheme. Stalking and viewing wildlife is also often found to be a calming activity.
Interact with nature regularly
Sadly the British countryside is not always easily accessible for some people, however this doesn’t mean urban dwellers need to forgo the clear benefits of interacting with nature as several schemes have been set up which aim to challenge this. A number of urban farms have been created in inner city areas and aim to offer education (particularly of children) about where food comes from, the helping of vulnerable people with poor mental and/or physical health and community empowerment.
The Good Life Project aims to bring the outdoors indoors by greening office spaces and organising outdoor activities to improve employees’ physical and mental wellbeing.
Other easy ways to bring more nature into your day could be walking in your local park or green space, gardening, or cloud watching.
Simple ideas to interact with nature
Make nature-inspired crafts
Doing craft activities which require concentration is a form of mindfulness and has been shown to improve mental health. Why not try making a sea glass mobile or constructing a kite this week?
Listen to the BBC Countryfile Magazine podcast
In each episode of the BBC Countryfile Magazine podcast, we go on a great escape into beautiful landscapes where we look for great wildlife, explore curious historic sites, meet interesting rural people and discuss the big issues affecting the countryside. Our aim with each episode is to offer a restful retreat from daily life and help bring a bit more of the outdoors into your day.
Listen to the podcast
Mental Health Awareness Week