Nature’s benefits are all in your mind

During this last awful year of the pandemic, many of us have flooded into the U.K.’s green spaces to get away from houses and flats that have felt too often like prisons. It’s probably not surprising to learn that the U.K. has the smallest average home size in Europe, so getting out into the fresh air can feel like a welcome escape.

The health benefits of being out in nature are well known; vitamin D from sunlight boosts the immune system, it reduces levels of stress and anger, enhances a sense of emotional wellbeing and encourages exercise. When our homes leave us feeling isolated, morose or constricted, being out in green spaces gives us a feeling of being expanded and in touch with something so much bigger than ourselves.

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Stuck within four walls?

But what if, for whatever reason, you’re not able to get out into nature? Perhaps you’re in a city centre with no nearby green space, or you’re unwell or shielding from Covid, or maybe you have caring responsibilities or a physical disability that makes getting out into nature more difficult.

It turns out that even thinking about being out in nature or listening to the sounds of nature also promotes relaxation, stress reduction and emotional wellbeing. A 2017 study by a team of researchers in Brighton, U.K., played nature sounds to volunteers in an MRI scanner to measure their brain activity and discovered this valuable ability of the human mind.

So if you’re stuck at home and feeling stressed out or low, here are 5 top tips for reconnecting with nature when you can’t get out and about:

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  1. Cultivate a potted plant or, if possible, a window box. Having indoor plants can give a sense of connection to the outdoors and bring life and vibrancy to a room.
  2. Make a habit of listening to or watching nature sounds videos or podcasts. There are thousands of them on YouTube and I’ve saved a selection on my YouTube channel.
  3. Many meditation and mindfulness apps include a range of nature sound options. The one I use is MyLife but there are several others for both Android and iPhone users.
  4. Paint or draw some nature scenes with coloured pens, chalk or pencils. They don’t have to be great art! It’s just you expressing your feelings about nature and how you feel when you’re in it. Perhaps draw inspiration from memories of holidays or day trips.
  5. Download a selection of photos of nature that really move you or touch you in some way and create a collage – either on your device or printed off and placed somewhere at home where you can rest your eyes on them.
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Contact me for more support

This past year has been a tough one; if you’d like support with problems, obstacles or difficulties in your life, please drop me a line to arrange an informal chat or a first appointment.

Take good care