Tag Archives: Mental Health Awareness Week

Lady walking dog in forest

Mental Health Awareness Week—Nature As A Healer

This year 2021, mental health awareness week is 10th May—16th May and the theme is nature.

Across the world, a viral pandemic has lead to a us taking steps to protect our physical health by staying inside our houses for weeks on end. This has had a profound impact on our mental health and it’s imperative we address this! During the pandemic, 45% people stated visiting parks and green spaces helped them cope.

When you think about nature, do you think about a special holiday you went on or a particularly picturesque place that helps you feel at peace and relaxed? What we need to remember is that we can find something special close to home if we look for it.

Getting fresh air and exercise has long been recommended for for general health and wellbeing but connecting to nature itself is also important. This relates to feeling an emotional association to nature. Activities that enable you to feel compassion and find a meaning in nature have been found to particularly effective. Such activities could include: intentionally listening to birdsong, feeling the bark of a tree or listening to the babbling of a brook. But you don’t need to be in nature to benefit: writing a poem or song or visualising a walk through nature could have equal benefit.

Actively choosing to connect to nature has been shown to increase happiness, joy and compassion, increase concentration and increase creativity. A decrease in mental ill health has also been shown, particularly symptoms of depression and anxiety.

It is important that the green space is clean (e.g. free from litter) and biodiversity (variety) has also been shown to be of benefit.

Feeling connected to nature can also increase pro-environmental behaviours such as reducing plastic use or recycling so making an active choice is win-win!

People living in urban areas are less likely to find clean biodiverse green spaces. Also, people with disabilities find it harder to access green spaces equally. Some groups, e.g. women, ethnic minorities, young people and disabled people said they weren’t sure if green spaces were safe. These barriers are really important to think about considering some of these groups are people who would greatly benefit from nature as therapy.

It’s important to plan urban parks well with accessibility in mind. Planting trees and flowers along streets is call a “green corridor”, even these small initiatives help.

If you’re feeling low or anxious, going for a walk may be the last thing you feel like doing but it could be the absolute best thing for you.

The main message is that you don’t necessarily have to do anything spectacular to benefit from nature. Check out this article to see some simple ideas for what you can do, even if you live in a city.

See full research article here.

Kindness

Mental Health Awareness Week (18th-24th May) this year (2020) is themed “kindness”, simple but effective – the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.

During this global pandemic, communities have pulled together and shown kindness to one-another, through the most difficult of times it has given people hope. For the first time, mental health has been on the daily agenda – let’s keep this going!

Being kind to others lets them know that they’re not alone. Even the smallest act of kindness can have a big effect, perhaps and text, a phone call or a plate a cookies left on the doors step, these things say “I’m thinking of you and I care”.

My first blog this week asked you to say to someone “how are you, really?” – have you tried it? Did you listen to the answer? How did it go? The conversation doesn’t have to be incredibly deep and heavy, just meaningful and meant with kindness. It’s a way of connecting and could have a profound impact on that person.

This pandemic crisis is putting a lot of strain on relationships because spending enforced time together can be incredibly difficult! If relationships are frayed, I’ve heard some people say it helps to stand back and think “what’s best for the relationship?”. It might be hard, in the moment, but showing the relationship some kindness could save it in the long run. If, however, you’re living with an abuser, this is entirely different, I sincerely hope you can find support to leave.

If you receive kindness you feel good but an act of kindness, boosts the mental health of the person who gives it as well! Thinking of someone else can lower stress and improve mood!

Being kind to ourselves is important too. Most of us can think of ways of being kind to other people but when it comes to being kind to ourselves, we’re stumped! At this time, you may have had things taken away from you that you usually enjoy, it might be hard to find new things to treat yourself. Try these things to show kindness to yourself:

  • Female reading in bath full of bubblesPlan a period of time that’s just about self care for you – reading books, watching TV, having a bath, playing music, doing things that you really like
  • Try a new creative hobby – perhaps drawing or painting
  • Get an early night – take time to prepare yourself and the bedroom, perhaps listen to a audiobook or podcast. Make sure the bedroom is dark and not too hot or too cold.
  • Write down your feelings in a journal – if you don’t know what to write, just start writing anything and see what happens.
  • Join a support group (online) to get ideas from other people about how they’re kind to themselves
  • Act opposite – have a pyjama day if you’ve never it! Or, if you’ve not got dressed for a few days, find some lovely fresh clothes and get dressed.
  • Note down 3 things each day that have gone well and reflect back at the end of the week/month
  • Call a mental health helpline to speak to someone about how you’re feeling

Sometimes we need to turn away from unhelpful habits that may be harming us in order to show kindness to ourselves. Drinking too much, talking harshly to ourselves, eating too much or too little, going to bed late, stifling emotions or many other forms of self harm. As we grow up we set ourselves some core values that come to define our character; step back for a second and consider if these are benefiting you or harming you? It won’t be easy but could you let go of some of these a little to give yourself a break?

I challenge you this Mental Health Awareness Week, you can choose, being kind to others or being kind to yourself (or both if you like!). Whichever you choose, do 1 act of kindness each day, if you think you need accountability, keep a journal and write down the 1 thing you did each day when you’ve done it. After a month, look back and reflect on the difference it’s made in your life.

How my faith has helped me during lockdown

When church buildings closed their doors, headlines made it sound as though religious and faith communities were going to halt proceedings. But during Mental Health Awareness Week I’m writing this blog to let you know how Christianity and my extensive Faith community has helped my through one of the strangest times any of us have seen.

I have been struggling with my mental health for all sorts of reasons and I’ve had to dial up the coping strategies to ensure I don’t slide down into the darkness.

For me, mindfulness and distraction are helpful. Mindfulness is a form of meditation where you focus on the here and now, ensuring your attention isn’t distracted by dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. I use crafting to distract myself from distressing thoughts, knitting is my favourite hobby at the moment!

Routine is vital for my mental health and I think the vast majority of us have had our routines jolted out from under us without our consent. I’ve heard lots of people struggling with weekdays and weekends feeling the same. I’ve been involved in producing church services that we can watch online as though we’re going to church at the same time each Sunday. Doing this has given me some purpose. We’ve also have Zoom-coffee after the service to catch up with friends afterwards. Staying connected has been really important for my mental health.

With church services online, people who didn’t attend church before lockdown can now easily access everything that‘s going on. This is a way anyone can separate weekdays from weekends if they choose. However, it’s also fantastic for those who’re working at the weekend, they can now access their church service any time during the week, when it suits them!

A recent Tearfund study revealed that more people than ever are turning to prayer. My husband and I pray together every night before bed; we find out from each other whether we have felt love from each other that day, ask for prayer requests and then pray, include prayers of thanks and pray for each other. This continued routine has helped me. Prayer helps me because it keeps me connected to what’s important. Sitting with my husband, even if it’s just for 5 minutes in the evening and focusing on a few simple things helps me to see what my priorities are.

Alpha is a course that introduces people to the basics of the Christian faith. Just like every other area of life, Alpha has moved online and more people than ever are engaging with Alpha online! Alpha addresses the big questions and gives an opportunity to address the meaning of life. People are being give more time to think and they’re wanting answers.

Some people struggling with the idea of God “allowing” this pandemic to happen but the God I believe in gave human being free-will and unfortunately this means we make mistakes. This pandemic is a man-made disaster and while God is omnipotent, he could stop it, this would completely negate the point of free-will. Instead, God has provided himself as a source, for us to rely on in times of need. I know, no matter how desperate I feel, if I rely on my relationship with God, I will get through.