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Discover the health benefits of nature

Fatmata Kamara
Mental Health Nurse Global Case Manager
22 June 2023
Next review due June 2026

Being outside and spending time in nature is so important for our sense of wellbeing at any time of the year. But this is the perfect time of the year for me to share the benefits of nature, and to explore how you can make the most of the green spaces around you.

a woman in a park on a bench

Health benefits of nature

Spending time in nature has a huge range of potential benefits to your wellbeing, such as:

  • increasing your happiness and improving your mood
  • reducing stress and anger
  • helping those who have anxiety or depression
  • helping people who have SAD (a type of depression that often happens during the winter months)
  • boosting relaxation
  • encouraging you to be active
  • improving your self-esteem, confidence, and satisfaction with life
  • encouraging you to learn new skills, with some research suggesting it may even make you smarter!
  • Helping you to feel more connected to nature, yourself, and other people

Eight ways to get involved with nature

Here are eight easy things you can do to help your wellbeing and nature at the same time.

1.Make a bug hotel

Encourage nature and wildlife into your garden by making a bug hotel or hedgehog house. This is a great activity to get your children involved in too.

2.Grow some veggies and herbs to put in your meals

Fresh mint, chives, and basil are delicious additions to meal times and easy to grow in your own garden. They’re quite easy to grow in pots on a balcony or patio area if you don’t have a big garden. You could also grow some fruit and vegetables like chilli, tomatoes, and rhubarb.

If you do have a garden, make the most of it, even if you’re a beginner, and enjoy the health benefits of gardening. Anne took on her father’s garden and says: “I have little expertise and I make pruning and planting mistakes daily - what I didn't remotely expect were the benefits: calm, peace, time out and reconnection with wildlife.”

3.Plant flowers that will attract butterflies

According to the RSPB, butterfly-friendly plants and flowers include the following:

  • Spring: Lady’s-smock, Bugle, and Goat willow
  • Summer: English lavender, Marjoram, and Coneflower
  • Autumn: Iceplant, Ivy, and Michelmas daisy

Then sit back and relax as you watch beautiful, multi-coloured butterflies flutter around your garden.

4.Take your dog for a walk

If you have one, take your pooch on a long walk and enjoy watching them run, sniff, and play with a ball. As well as being great companions, dogs can really help boost our physical and mental wellbeing too.

5.Go on a nature walk or take part in a nature survey

Explore your local woodlands while looking out for birds, fish, squirrels, frogs, and insects. If you’re taking part in a survey, you may be asked to count and report your sightings.

6.Go stargazing

Take time out to look up at the stars, spot comets, or watch different phases of the moon. You can read up online about the different constellations and activity happening in the sky.

7.Eat al fresco

Eating outside is a great way to relax and a good break from the routine of watching TV with your dinner on your knees.

8. Notice the wildlife wherever you are

It may be that you don’t have a garden, so do make sure you go out regularly for a walk to spend time outside. Notice the wildlife wherever you are: the birdsong outside your window, the squirrels in your local park, the insects and ducks on the canal or river.

Natalie lives in a flat and doesn’t have a garden, but she said: “There’s a cherry tree outside my bedroom window and over the last week or so I’ve enjoyed watching some parakeets feasting on the fruit and chattering away.”

How to bring the outside in

There are also lots of ways you can bring nature into your home too.

An image of indoor plants on a windowsill

Natural scents

Use natural fragrances such as spraying lavender or jasmine on your pillow at night or buy some scented candles.

Indoor plants

Decorate your home with green plants. If you’re worried about keeping them alive, go for cacti and succulents which are easier to care for. Or you could even get some artificial plants.

Arts and crafts

Collect natural materials and display or make something with them. Gather driftwood, sea glass, shells, pebbles, and feathers, for example.

Photography

Use a photo of your favourite natural place as your screensaver on your phone. Every time you look at that memory of the beach it will give you a little lift. Take a second to close your eyes, take a deep breath and be transported back to that moment. You could also put some photos up around your home to remind you of your happy travels.

Interior design

Buy a floral duvet set or cushion to bring some colour into your bedroom or living room.

Sounds from the natural world

Listen to natural sounds such as the waves, rain falling, or sounds of animals in the jungle as a method of relaxation. Close your eyes and drift away to somewhere exotic.

Watch nature programmes

Watch a nature documentary. Some research has suggested that watching a nature programme can have the same benefits as doing meditation. So on that final note, enjoy this clip of David Attenborough saying boo to a sloth.

Fatmata Kamara
Fatmata Kamara (she/her)
Mental Health Nurse Global Case Manager

 

Co-author

Marcella McEvoy, Senior Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

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