This new growth reminds us that we may have also undergone many changes and phases in this past year, and just like nature around us, we can come into full bloom again too.

The 10th – 16th of May 2021 marks Mental Health Awareness Week with a focus on nature. Due to our various lockdowns throughout 2020/21, a lot of us have spent more time getting in touch with nature – so it’s no surprise that nature was handpicked as this year’s theme. But there are also some of us who may have felt unable to leave home, do not have access to the spaces we’d like to go, and some days getting out of bed may seem like a bit too much.

There are numerous ways you can bring nature into your life or experience it, and we hope the below tips help.

Indoor / Home activities

Listening to nature

Bird song, waves crashing and rain falling are all familiar and welcome sounds to most of us. Because we’re so used to these sounds, our brain interprets these noises as non-threatening, and this helps to reduce our fight or flight response allowing us to relax. You can listen to nature sounds on YouTube, on apps like Calm, Ambience or Rainy Mood, or simply leave your window ajar. Earphones in, world out.

Watching nature

Focusing on things that require little thought, little concentration and little involvement mean they can often be the most enjoyable activities we do! Look closely outside your window, and there’s a whole other world waiting. Insects busy at work, birds building nests and plants growing in every spot they can find. You can sit and enjoy this any time – so make sure to take 30 mins out of your day when you’re feeling flustered or low. A great way to document all that you see is natural journaling and the Mental Health Organisation have made it that much easier with their Nature Journal which prompts you to document how you feel and what you see. If there isn’t much activity going on, you can also watch live wildlife cams. Wildlife Kate has plenty to choose from with all sorts of different wildlife appearing onscreen – we loved the Tawny Owl highlights!

Encouraging nature in and outside of your home

Nature always finds a way to work itself into even the most urban of areas. If you don’t have a garden or green space, you can still invite nature in. Insect homes and bird feeders will create a hive of activity right outside your window, or potted plants will bring vibrant colour to your outdoor spaces. Nurturing and caring for indoor plants is also a great way to relax. Caring for a plant is typically a non-taxing activity that also gives us responsibility and rewards – the more we care for our plant, the more it thrives.

Outdoor activities

‘Go for a walk and clear your head’ is a phrase most of us are used to hearing, but it couldn’t be more true. In fact, 45% of people in the UK felt that visiting green spaces such as parks – helped them get through those tougher months in lockdown (Mental Health Organisation, 2020)Luckily in Northern Ireland, we’re not short of a few beauty spots!

Walking with nature

Get your steps in, breathe in all the fresh air, and enjoy the sights and sounds on a scenic walk. Whether it’s the Mournes, Tollymore, Glenariff Forest Park or more – there’s plenty of places that are free or inexpensive to experience. Walk NI is an excellent resource that can help you narrow down the best walk for you. At Glow NI, we’re doing 10k steps a day in May to fundraise for our programmes. You can join in too or donate here!

Sketching nature

Concentrating on a sketch or creating art can distract you from some low thoughts you may be having, or something you may be struggling with. You don’t have to be Monet to create your own masterpiece. Grab a pencil, a rough bit of paper, pick a subject and see where it takes you. If that’s not for you, Secrets of Devon Wood by Jo Brown is a great book with intricate nature drawings and explanations – and is the perfect park bench read.

As you can see, there’s more than one way to enjoy nature and you can do it at a pace that works best for you. For more resources on nature and its connection with mental health, visit the Mental Health Organisation.