Tag Archives: mental illness

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.

How does the 2:2:2 technique help me put things in perspective?!

Standing in a wood with a bright sun light

Do you every find yourself worry about something and you’re so surrounded by the thing itself that you just can’t see beyond the end of your nose?! It’s when you get so bogged down in the detail you can’t see the wood for the trees, you can’t see the bigger picture…

The idea behind this exercise is to try and step back from the things you’re worrying about and consider them in the future—will it matter in 2 days time? Will it matter in 2 months time? Will it matter in 2 years times? This helps us put things in perspective because it helps us see the bigger picture.

Female in supermarket picking up an apple looking concerned

It’s important to use a measure of time that’s relevant to the problem. If, for example, you’re feeling highly anxious about being in a supermarket because people don’t seem to be adhering to the social distancing regulations, you can ask yourself, will this matter in 2 minutes? Yes—I will still be here in 2 minutes and I will still be struggling with this problem, however, in 2 hours, you will have returned home, washed your hands and lowered your risks. The idea being that in the moment, you can think to yourself, within a short space of time, things will feel better and this helps manage the anxiety.

If you’re struggling with the anxiety of buying a house, you’re worried about how you’ll cope with all the paperwork, you’re feeling stressed about understanding the legal aspects and you’re lying awake at night. The 2:2:2 technique can help by enabling you look further ahead. Will this still be on your mind in 2 weeks? Probably, how about 2 months? Yes…but how about 2 years? No, chances are, you’ll be in your new home, having unpacked all the those boxes you’re feeling stressed about and you’ll be worrying about something else! Of course buying a house is stressful, but this technique helps you realise that there is a bigger picture, you just don’t know what’s around the corner, life’s stresses come and go and if we spend life worrying, we’ll miss the good stuff!

Female blurred image

This technique can also help if you’re struggling to make a decision. Sometimes our mental health can affect us in surprising ways—indecisiveness being one. In the depths of depression, being asked what I wanted to drink or deciding what to wear could feel like I was being asked for the nuclear codes. Grasping for the right answer felt perilously out of reach… Once I realised, what choice I made wasn’t going to matter in 2 minutes time…. the decision was so much easier, just pick something, anything, whichever was closest to hand, what I drank/wore yesterday, it was fine!

I’m training to be a counsellor; although anyone can call themselves a counsellor, to become a fully accredited qualified counsellor takes a long time because a lot of self-development is needed and there’s no short cut. During the training process, it’s hard that the thing I want to be is within reach but also so far out of reach. I’m working in a job that’s not my ultimate aim and it causes high amount of stress and fatigue; each assignment and hurdle on my course feels like I’m being tested and I worry about “performing” badly when I know I can do better; I worry I’m never going to reach my goal but I have to step back every so often and think… I’ll still be on this path in 2 months but in 2 years, I’ll (probably/hopefully) be the qualified counsellor I’ve been aspiring to be for so, so long!

I’m not saying this technique will solve everything, nor am I saying it’s easy, it may not be for everyone but if you’re struggling, perhaps it’s something you could try? It’s just another tool to stick in your tool box for managing life’s stresses.

Time To Talk—The Power Of Small

Today, 4th February 2021 is Time to Talk Day and the Theme is The Power of Small. The idea is that it’s the small conversations that make a difference but I’m going to take it a step further and say that any small thing can make a big difference when it comes to mental health.

green wooden door with chain and padlock

I think it’s fair to say most people are struggling with something at the moment. Some people may be enjoying the simpler life of lockdown or it may not have impacted them as much as others but not being able to go about life as we want is really hard. Being told what we can and can’t do and when is taking its toll.

Most of us will have an unhealthy coping mechanism we turn to, it could be ‘socially acceptable’ alcohol, or it could be relatively-easy-to-hide eating too much. Or perhaps you’re someone who gets irritable and snappy with those around you? Maybe you’re someone who stuffs your feelings down, pretends everything’s fine, maybe you’re a workaholic or a exercise-addict? But none of these things work in the long term, eventually, the cracks will show, your body, your mind or your relationships will tell you something is wrong, talking about how you’re feeling is the most powerful thing we can do.

2 people chatting by a fire in a wooded area

Speaking to my therapist the other day, I was talking about how I wanted to support someone close to me but I had no idea what I could do to help because I don’t have any skills that they need. He asked “but do you need to do anything?”. As I’m a trainee counsellor, he really shouldn’t have needed to ask this question, but how often do we find ourselves desperately trying to do good things when just being with someone is all they need?

Not everyone will be able to find the words and saying “I’m struggling” can be exposing and make us feel quite vulnerable. But talking about our emotions, feelings and mental health is becoming more ‘normal’. The phrase ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ is regularly used to express an acceptance of each other’s emotional state, no matter where you’re at.

Today is the day when we highlight the importance of talking but it doesn’t just need to be today. Think about who you might reach out to, a friend, a family member, or anyone you feel you can trust.

mosquito on skin

If you don’t believe that small things make a difference, you’ve never shared a bed with a mosquito!