5 Nature Connection Activities for Mental Health: What I Do

I’ve found that, through working in conservation, I have formed far richer connections with nature and people. However, it also brings with it HUGE responsibility as you become painfully aware of the pressures society is placing on our planet.  An occupational hazard for any conservationist!

Eco-anxiety has exacerbated my mental health struggles for the past few years and, unfortunately, it’s spreading. But with constant updates about the state of our environment, it’s hardly surprising.

I’m forever torn between wanting to share these messages – we can’t just stick our heads in the sand – and the urge to scroll past them because they scare me; they zap all the energy out of me.  I empathise with the desire to ignore it but that indifference and disconnect only fuels my anxiety.

Soooo…if, like me, your anxiety is impacting your life, it’s time to try and find some natural remedies.  Here are 5 things that I do.

Side note: If you’re not a nature person, you’re probably thinking ‘meh, not for me…I have anxiety but no’. Yet, nature connection is scientifically shown to improve a ‘person’s‘ mental wellbeing (not a ‘nature nerd’s‘). It’s a simple matter of psychology and is recommended as a way to tackle anxiety and depression. Check out eco-therapy.

1. Hike (we all knew that was coming).  

Hike, walk, ramble, trek. Whatever you want to call it or however intense you want to get, this is the quickest and easiest way to escape the house, other people (hopefully 😉 ), and your urban surroundings. Like I said, you might not normally enjoy getting your feet muddy or succumbing to the elements but I PROMISE you, you will feel better for it. Still, finding the right location, terrain, and length of hike is half the battle. You might not like the idea of googling an unknown trail and setting off to see what happens, you might prefer to find a few nearby routes that you’re familiar with and stick to those – that’s fine! Anything will do.

2. Learn a new skill.

For a couple of years, I’ve been working on my bird ID.  I wasn’t brought up bird watching so I’m teaching myself; when I take Dexter for a walk, when I hike, or I’ll go out especially to bird.  For me, it’s the perfect way to get engrossed in something while I’m out, rather than be stuck with all my thoughts.  You don’t have to try birdwatching, you could pick anything – tracking (identify animal tracks), botany (learn your trees and wildflowers), or search for mammals, insects, or sea-life if you’re near the coast (rock-pooling).  Aside from connecting with nature, you’ll find it works a treat as you redirect that energy into something productive, while challenging yourself.

3. Forage.

In the summer I love blackberry picking – free food, come on!  Not to mention, it satisfies the environmentalist in me as there’s no packaging involved. When we lived in Cornwall, we would walk Raleigh along the coast path and collect way too many (and eat nearly as much on the go). We’d freeze some and eat the rest fresh. It doesn’t have to be berries if that’s not your ‘jam’ (yep, I’m pleased with myself), there are tons of books out there that teach you how to forage for edible mushrooms and plants. If you’re keen on cooking or baking, this is the perfect option for you.

4. Beach clean.

I’m including this one for those of you suffering specifically with eco-anxiety. Connecting with nature is one thing, but you also need to feel as though you’re helping – that feeling of helplessness will eat you up. I recently read a BBC article that echoed, at least, my thoughts. It’s not a mental illness that can be resolved through medication or Talking Therapies, the only real solution is for the global community to act. So finding a way to connect with nature and have a positive impact will help ease that anxiety which beach cleaning (or any litter clean) will do. Moreover, you’ll come together with like-minded people – a powerful antidote!

5. Staycation.

I realise this isn’t an ‘everyday’ activity and you might be thinking ‘it’s alright if you have money!’….I’ll stop you right there. Let me introduce you to the way we do staycation-ing:

  • First, I think about: where haven’t we been; which places are on our ‘To See’ list; or where isn’t too far away but far enough that I can feel ‘away from it all’.
  • Check out Airbnb – we rarely spend more than £30/40 a night (for an entire house/cottage/hut/whatever), but less than £30 is great!
  • Plus…we meal-prep. For the time we’re away, generally, Fri-Sun, we simply prep the kind of meals we would usually eat with the groceries we would usually buy. That way, we hardly spend anymore than a typical weekend. It’s up to you if you want to splurge on extras.
  • And finally, of course (!), we don’t spend money on ‘activities’ while we’re away. We use these trips to get outside; sometimes a long hike, sometimes a few hours walking around a nature reserve, or simply a trip to the beach. Ok, we also have a thing for coffee shops so we might spend a little on a pick-me-up but that’s really it.

That’s it. The thing is, we don’t have the money these days to go abroad and I’d rather avoid flights if possible! The amount that we spend on a few staycations a year is still less than a summer, all-inclusive holiday and, to be honest, the views are often better! See Scotland /\ /\ – I rest my case there.

Now, GO AND BE IN NATURE!

More ideas.

  • Cycling.
  • Cold sea swimming.
  • Watching the sunset.
  • Watching the sunrise (listen to the dawn chorus – I can’t explain how soothing it is).
  • Grab a coffee and just sit somewhere naturey.
  • Jogging with your dog.
  • If you have money, go kayaking, rock-climbing, coasteering, etc etc.
  • Volunteer with a local wildlife/environmental charity.
  • Help out at a local farm – go and cuddle some cows and goats!
  • Walk along the beach, or picnic on the beach, or rock-pool on the beach, or watch for whales and dolphins on the beach….go to the beach.

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