When was the last time you took a moment to enjoy nature? Not just the bush, mountains or beach but the small, everyday wonders all around us – the rustling of the wind through the trees, the spring flowers or the sound of birds settling for the night. Research shows spending time in nature improves physical and mental wellbeing.
Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 9th–15th October. This year's theme – Nature is key – is designed to encourage us to get into the great outdoors and feel better.
Here are our top tips for using nature as the key to unlocking your wellbeing:
1. Watch the clouds
Throw off your shoes, walk barefoot and feel the grass or sand beneath your toes. While you’re there, find a quiet spot, lie down and stare up at the clouds. Who doesn’t remember cloud gazing as a kid, watching the clouds drift by, arguing if the big cloud looked like a duck or a dinosaur?
2. Create a garden
Plant a small vegetable or herb garden or a few of your favourite flowers. If you’re tight on space, try a vertical garden or planting in pots. It’s a joy watching tiny seeds grow into your favourite vegetables or picking homegrown herbs for your next meal.
3. Volunteer outside
Many organisations such as DOC and Forest and Bird, and even local community groups, are often looking for volunteers to help with short and long-term projects such as planting trees or running beach clean-up days.
4. Look up at the night sky
When the weather’s right, spend some time at night looking at the stars; you could learn about the constellations (there's an app for that!) or watch the different phases of the moon.
5. Bring the outdoors inside
This could be as simple as putting a few pot plants in your home or work or using a picture of nature as your screensaver. Cut flowers always brighten up a room; these don't need to be expensive – take a walk around your neighbourhood and make an arrangement out of wildflowers. You could also make a shrine to nature where you keep leaves, shells, seedpods and other natural treasures. Closely examine the shapes and patterns each contains.
6. Take your camera on a nature walk
Can you recognise a kowhai, manuka or pohutukawa tree? Do you know the difference between a kauri snail and a flax snail? Pack up your camera, go for a bush walk and take lots of photos of our beautiful and unique flora and fauna. When you get home, learn about the different plants, animals and insects you found along the way. Find out how you can get involved in the MHAW Photo-a-day Challenge.
7. Join the Mental Health Awareness Week Lockout
Take part in World Mental Health Day on 10 October. 'Down tools' for an hour and connect with nature around your workplace. Go for a picnic in the park or play a game of cricket with your workmates.
Find out more about the MHAW Lockout and how you can get involved.