“Nature is our great untapped resource for a mentally healthy future”

– Mental Health Foundation

Has the link between nature and mental health ever been more evident?

After over a year where many of us have been tied to our homes, a real hunger to explore nature has evolved across the country. As indoor attractions remained closed, nature reserves became visitor hotspots. Websites which offered wildlife webcams had huge influxes of visitors. Natural England’s new People and Nature Survey (April-June 2020) revealed that almost nine in ten of surveyed adults reported being in nature made them ‘very happy‘. Four in ten adults are spending more time in nature now than before the coronavirus pandemic. Health and wellbeing were among the main reasons given for getting outside.

To find out more, visit the Mental Health Foundation website and spend a little time this week connecting with nature. It’s a topic close to our hearts. We touched on it last year with our blog about the beneficial effects of listening to birdsong.

Gardening

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul”

Alfred Austin (Poet Laureate)
Jack (4) and Samantha (9) potting up a plant

Before the pandemic I had never grown a vegetable. We’d grown strawberries and raspberries for many years… But we’d never attempted to grow anything you wouldn’t serve with cream. The pandemic presented us plenty of time to spend with our two young children and we spent a lot of time planting, weeding and watering the vegetable patch. We had sweetcorn, runner beans, courgettes, radishes, tomatoes and herbs, all growing in pots and beds. It became an enjoyable and rewarding past time for the whole family. There was definitely some trial and error and it helped looking things up in a good book or online.

Books and e-books

If you’re interested in developing your gardening skills, there are a range books and e-books available from the library:

A selection of gardening books and e-books available from the Library
Streaming
  • TV shows have tackled the benefits of gardening for mental health, including episodes of Gardeners’ World and Beachgrove Repotted. Watch them on our Mental Health Awareness Week Box of Broadcasts playlist.
  • Kanopy offers a range of great courses including ‘How to grow anything.” It features episodes on preparing the earth and spring planting. It will help you choose the right space for a plant based on light and space.
‘How to grow anything’ – Available through Kanopy

Mindfulness

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful”

Alice Walker –  American novelist
Mindful Escapes: Breathe, Release, Restore – Available on Box of Broadcasts

Mindfulness is a technique you can learn which involves making a special effort to notice what’s happening in the present moment, in your mind, body and surroundings.

Box of Broadcasts

In 2020, the BBC produced an experimental series called Mindful Escapes: Breathe, Release, Restore. The series uses images and sounds of the natural world to help us gain a greater sense of ease, perspective and connection. You can watch all the episodes on Box of Broadcasts and we’ve compiled them into a playlist for you to enjoy.

Kanopy

Kanopy has a range of great courses that can help you practice Mindfulness. We also have a blog to help you discover a range of Kanopy wellbeing resources. Read wellbeing with Kanopy or take a look at the following two courses:

  • Masters of Mindfulness is a series of 22 lessons featuring renowned specialists. They share their own personal experiences and their latest research. You will be guided through several mindfulness exercises. They’ll help you understand how the techniques work and how to experience the benefits.
  • Practicing Mindfulness will help you gain a clear understanding of the essence of meditation and how best to practice it. It features 24 lessons filled with guided exercises, principles and techniques.

Discover more…

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better

Albert Einstein – Theoretical physicist

Love Thy Nature – Narrated by Liam Neeson, Love Thy Nature points to how deeply we’ve lost touch with nature. It will take you on a spellbinding journey through the beauty and intimacy of our relationship with the natural world. Available on Kanopy.

Super Cute Animals – Documentary where Gordon Buchanan meets the world’s cutest animals. Why do people have such a strong emotional response to certain animals? Behind every feature humans find so appealing, a panda’s massive head, a penguin’s comic waddle or a sweet little hummingbird’s snore is a secret survival strategy. Available on Box of Broadcasts.

Meetings with Remarkable Trees – Being around trees can be restful and restorative. Explore some of the oldest and most unusual trees in Britain with this short documentary series. Playlist on Box of Broadcasts.

Research Space – The connection between nature and wellbeing has been a topic for University researchers too. Visit Research Space to find out about these titles and more:


Find out what’s going on throughout Mental Health Awareness Week on the student blog and please share some of your favourite green space around Canterbury, Medway and Tunbridge Wells in the comments below.