Publish date: 28 July 2022

Warm weather and longer days provide the perfect opportunity to spend more time outside this August, helping to improve our mental health and wellbeing.

4.jpgAt the start of National Allotment Week (Monday 8th to Sunday 14th August), Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust, is encouraging everyone to embrace the natural environment and feel the benefits to their wellbeing. AWP is part of a pilot project, known as Green Social Prescribing, which enables health care professionals to refer people into nature-based activities to benefit their mental health and wellbeing.

From exploring green spaces and connecting with the environment, to exercising outdoors and growing your own plants and produce, many studies have shown that bringing nature into your life can improve your mood, help you be more active, reduce stress, boost your confidence and open opportunities to connect with others.

In research following the pandemic, the Mental Health Foundation reported that 70% of UK adults agreed that being close to nature improves their mood, with 62% feeling the benefits of spending time in the countryside.*

Zoe, a resident from Bristol who suffers from anxiety and depression, said: “Connecting with nature and getting outside helps me stay grounded, giving me peace of mind if I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m walking more in my local area which allows me time and space to reflect on things, and I have started growing vegetables in my garden which feels so rewarding. Nurturing plants and watching them flourish is a great achievement and this has definitely boosted my confidence over the last few months.”

Mathew Page, Chief Operating Officer at AWP, said: “We know that connecting with nature has a huge range of physical and mental health benefits, so we want to encourage people to use this month to get outside more. Whether it is walking with friends, open water swimming or growing your own fruit and vegetables on your allotment, you can start anytime and soon reap the benefits.”

AWP also runs an allotment project for veterans being treated within the mental health and wellbeing service called Op Courage. The veterans are encouraged to share their experiences in an outdoor environment while transforming an overgrown allotment plot in Brislington, Bristol, into a thriving garden of plants and produce.

2.jpgJoanne Lawson, an occupational therapist who runs the allotment project, said: “Many veterans can feel quite isolated and alone, and have already tried more traditional help like medication, therapies and counselling. The allotment project offers them a project to focus on, meet others, share their experiences and improve how they are feeling. It’s something they have become very passionate about.”

Embrace nature to boost your mental health and wellbeing

There are many ways you can embrace nature and the environment to help improve your mental health and wellbeing. Here are AWP’s top tips:

  • Take time out from your busy day; notice the environment around you and appreciate your connection with nature.
  • Start a gardening or outdoor project where you can relax and enjoy outside space.
  • No garden at home? Instead, visit a local park, community farm or walk through the countryside to connect with a friend.
  • Exercise outdoors in the shade and stay hydrated.
  • Walk or cycle as part of your commute to work.
  • Take photographs, video or sound recordings to connect with nature. Your images may even inspire others.

To find out more about improving mental health and wellbeing through connecting with nature, click here.

For more information about Green Social Prescribing, clcik here visit: 

*Read the Mental Health Foundation Nature Research Report, 2021.