Waking up to birdsong, finding a new leaf unfurling from your favourite houseplant, strolling through your local park with a friend – the little joys of nature play a huge role in bringing solace to our everyday lives in times when it is most needed.
Mental health awareness is an extremely important cause to us – 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. This is a conversation that we believe needs to happen and on Mental Health Awareness Week, the World Land Trust (WLT) team took a few minutes out of their busy days of saving land and species to reflect on this year’s theme: #ConnectWithNature.
It is no surprise that this theme is close to WLT’s heart – reconnecting with the living planet is integrated into our mission, team and ethos. The Mental Health Foundation’s research on the mental health impacts of the pandemic showed going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies, with 45% of us describing being in green spaces as “vital” for our mental health.
WLT TEAM AND SUPPORTERS ON CONNECTING WITH NATURE
This week we are using our platform to raise awareness by sharing how different members of the WLT staff find solace in nature:
“I’ve been extremely privileged to spend most of the lockdown in the countryside, and done my best to make the most of it. I already was an avid hiker pre-COVID but it has now become a crucial anchor in these uncertain times – having stumbled upon this excellent UK-wide map last summer I realised many locations around me were linked through public footpaths so I set out to explore.
“Months later I’ve discovered primeval woodlands, charming villages, waterfalls and wild meadows in a five-mile radius all around me. I’ve returned to something my Finnish friends taught me during the year (2012-2013) I spent in Helsinki: in nature it’s best to walk slowly, looking up and taking it all in. Doing that every week means I can remember I’m part of something bigger – and focus only on the day ahead of me, the next step.
José Rojo, Communications Manager
“There is something about the resilience of trees throughout the seasons that grounds me and I have favourite trees that I love to take photos of against our big Norfolk skies.”
Debra Porter, HR Advisor
“Being outdoors – whether walking or running – has been a great help to me during the pandemic. When you see the same four walls day after day and your friends are restricted to a screen, simply moving through a landscape can be so refreshing (and sometimes quite powerful).
“It’s funny how we think of the outdoors as “outdoors” – as if sitting in a house is our natural state. It’s the other way around of course – we are all a part of nature, just like the birds and the trees and the rivers. I find this very comforting when worries and anxieties start getting the better of me. The peace I feel in a green place really has no equal.”
Josh Wright, Communications Officer
“Wildlife has always played an important role in managing my mental health. Walking, listening and feeling allow my mind to rest, and escape all the other thoughts I have going in my head. During the last few months whilst movement has been restricted, I have enjoyed noticing my surrounding area much more, I have become a patch watcher. Having a local patch to watch has provided me with somewhere to escape to. The pleasure of noticing how things change week on week, month on month and seeing the migratory birds return. I have much more enjoyment and excitement when seeing something new.”
Dan Bradbury, Director of Communications and Development
“This past year has been a rollercoaster, but the one thing I have been so grateful for is the country park close to my house. I feel like I now know every route, every tree, every view – it has been a consistent source of comfort. On days where I am feeling down I make myself walk through the forest and listen to the birds and I feel better every single time.”
Alice Wojcik, Communications Officer
“Nature has always been an important part of my life, but during lockdown it has been my escape. I find the experience of being in nature very grounding and joyous, helping me to feel connected to the natural world around me.”
Gwynne Braidwood, Conservation Programmes Officer
“I try to engage as many of my senses as possible – last week we were in the forest and it was misty and rainy. The cool air, revitalizing moisture, birdsong, we can use anything to connect but the key step is letting go to allow the connection. Letting go of memories, responsibilities, expectations – even if it is for a few minutes – just to be present in the present.”
Faraaz Abdool, WLT supporter
For so many in the past year, the natural world all around us has brought such solace and on Mental Health Awareness Week, we’d love to hear from our supporters. How do you connect with nature, what has nature meant to you in these uncertain times? Let us know by reaching out to us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Opening up the conversation about mental health is just the start, and while connecting with nature can help, if you are struggling please reach out to your local GP or check out the Mental Health Foundation or Mind charity.