During Mental Health Awareness Week, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is spotlighting the hugely positive effects that nature, greenspace and the great outdoors can have on our mental wellbeing.
Taking place from 10-16 May 2021, Mental Health Awareness Week is a campaign hosted by Mental Health Foundation with a view to bringing mental health into focus and raising awareness of the challenges that people often face with their mental health.
Mental health is a topic that affects virtually everybody, whether you have been afflicted personally, you have family or friends who are living with mental illness or you are working alongside somebody who is impacted. As you may know all too well, mental health isn’t discerning; it can affect anybody regardless of age, gender, nationality, wealth or career.
Interestingly, nature is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The environment is so central to our psychological and emotional health that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health without a greater connection to the natural world.
It is true that we’re often happier when we’re outdoors. Think back to your childhood, when you climbed trees, built dens in the woods, went fishing in the local river and ran wild in open spaces. Maybe we can’t climb trees anymore or run as fast as we once could, but we know that spending time in nature is good for the mind and soul and there is evidence to support this.
For most of human history, we lived as part of nature. It is thought-provoking to consider that it is only in the last five generations that so many of us have lived and worked in a context that is largely separated from nature. And, it is surely no coincidence that numbers of people affected by mental health issues have raised exponentially in that time.
Science is beginning to unpack the extraordinary health benefits of nature for our mental health. The past few years have seen an explosion of research finding concrete links between increased exposure to nature and improved mental health. Mary McNeil, Development Manager at Cornerstone House Centre, said:
“The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed new mental health challenges and exacerbated existing ones in our society. Embracing nature can undoubtedly play a key role in helping people recover and realise good mental health again.
“The evidence of positive effects from nature, which includes studies on specific psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and mood disorder, is very revealing.
“Access to nature has been shown to improve sleep and reduce stress, increase happiness and reduce negative emotions, promote positive social interactions and even help generate a sense of meaning to life.
“Being in green environments boosts various aspects of thinking, including attention, memory and creativity, in people both with and without depression.
“Despite this knowledge, many of us are not connecting with nature as much as we could be. It is concerning that teenagers in particular appear to be less attached to nature than ever before.
“That’s why Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is backing organisations such as Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and Mental Health Foundation in challenging disparities in who is and who isn’t able to experience nature.
“We believe that nature is a resource that must be available for everyone to enjoy, as basic as having access to clean water or a safe roof over our heads. And the more people take pleasure from nature, the more advantages will unfold in our mental health and wellbeing.”
During Mental Health Awareness Week, why not take time to notice nature in your life? You might be surprised by what you observe! Taking photos, videos or sound recordings could be one such way to consciously connect with nature.
Over the coming weeks, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is encouraging the people of Cumbernauld to experience nature, share nature and talk about nature, and then notice how it impacts on their mental health. We’d love to hear your stories of this via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
HOW CAN PEOPLE IN CUMBERNAULD CONNECT WITH NATURE TO IMPROVE THEIR MENTAL HEALTH?
There are many ways to feel the benefits of nature, including walking, gardening, cycling, volunteering, outdoor learning and play, as well as just enjoying being out in green spaces and rural areas.
Did you know that steady-paced walking for 30 minutes each day for five days reduces the risk of not only physical illness, but also depression? It is known that nine out of 10 people who visit the outdoors report improvement in their mental health. Being outdoors is also an excellent way of removing yourself from the stresses of work, parenting, finance and health.
Greater Cumbernauld has many places in which people can enjoy the advantages of nature, including Palacerigg Country Park, Cumbernauld House Park, Cumbernauld Community Park, Colzium House and Estate and several golf courses, to name just a few. Another fun and simple way to be outdoors and help your mental health is through taking part in health walks organised by Get Walking Lanarkshire.
For those who would like to get their hands a bit dirtier, there are lots of outdoor volunteering opportunities available in Cumbernauld too. Organisations and initiatives such as Cumbernauld Living Landscape, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), Scottish Wildlife Trust, Watch Us Grow, Active Schools North Lanarkshire and Seven Lochs Wetland Park operate in the local area and regularly recruit volunteers for outdoor activities and events.
If you would like to find out more about connecting with nature in the Cumbernauld area, the Lanarkshire Green Health Partnership website is an excellent resource. Further information, advice and signposting can be obtained by contacting Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub on 01236 739220 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, if you live in Cumbernauld and are affected by low mood, depression or anxiety, participating in the award-winning course Living Life to the Full could be perfect for you. For more details on what’s involved and how to sign up, click here.