There is a wealth of information out there on the benefits of getting outside and the last year of lockdown has allowed more people than ever to access the outdoors on a daily basis.
However, it turns out that it is not just being outside that’s important but how we connect and interact with nature which influences our mental health. Some of the benefits of being in nature include improved mood, reduced feelings of stress/anger, improved self-esteem and confidence. Connecting with nature in an urban area can feel like a real challenge at times, however you don’t need seek out challenging hikes to feel the benefits.
Whilst considering how we support children outdoors at Dr Bell’s, I became familiar with the Mental Health Foundation (mentalhealth.org.uk) which has some fantastic tips on how to incorporate connecting with nature into our daily lives.
As adults we are often rushing to get from A to B with our children in tow and we don’t always stop to appreciate our surroundings.
During Creche sessions we ensure we spend time outdoors with the children as much as we can. As soon as we leave the building with our children we spend time exploring our natural environment – nature is ALL around us.
The calming sounds of nature can be very relaxing and is often used to relieve stress. On our walks we listen to the birds singing, looking to see if we can spot the vocalist. The sound of rainfall can be soothing and we try to take the time to pause and listen (particularly if you are in a nice snug room).
Take in nature’s scents – smells can lift our mood, relax us and make us feel grounded. Growing up I loved the smell of freshly mowed grass and used to pick my neighbours roses to make perfume with my friends. You can experience the aromas of nature by collecting some fresh flowers when out for a walk and displaying them in water at home (just make sure you leave plenty for the bees and butterflies!) or grow your own herbs on your windowsill.. Lavender is great for relaxing and pine is shown to lower depression and anxiety. Essential oils can also be added to your environment to stimulate your senses and often we add these to our homemade playdough in Creche.
Nature is also captivating to look at and we can benefit so much from taking in its beauty. At Dr Bells we incorporate a nature hunt into any outing with the children. We spot and count the different coloured flowers, leaves on the trees and talk about the season changes on the environment. The children respond really well and join in often leading the conversation about the world around them. Why not seek out some greenspace in your community? – a patch of grass, a river, flower beds, wild flowers and even the weeds in the cracks in the pavement can be beautiful.
Get hands on with nature – our children love to feel the differences in texture on our outings – the rough tree bark, spikey grass, soft flowers. Our children love to lift rocks and look for bugs, play in the mud and dirt helps create happy and relaxed moods as touch stimulates the brain.
Protection of nature – Taking care of our community can be a really great way to feel good and teach our children the importance of their own actions and choices on our environment. Think about recycling your food waste and packaging, walk where possible rather than drive, clean up your local community. Taking care of nature can help you feel that you are doing your part which can help you feel more positive all around.
Find a few minutes in your day to pause and look, listen, smell, touch or taste your natural surroundings and feel your mood lift.
Let us know how you’ve connected to nature this season #drbells #connectwithnature #mentalhealthawarenessweek