Explains how nature can help your mental health. Gives tips and ideas to try, and suggests where to go for more information.
Sometimes it can be hard to know how to connect to nature. It can be difficult to get started. And many of us with mental health problems face barriers that might stop us connecting with nature.
“You don't need to have gardening skills or knowledge to get involved in garden/horticulture projects. Just a willingness to get your hands dirty. I just love weeding and shovelling compost!”
When we are feeling low or unwell, it can be hard to find the energy to go outside or try new things. Even if we know something might make us feel better, it can still be difficult to find the motivation to get started.
You might feel nervous about going outside, especially if you are used to spending a lot of time indoors. You might be unsure if it’s the right time to start something new. Or you might be worried it won’t work for you.
Here are some things you can try:
“I’d set my phone timer for five minutes, walk along Bournemouth gardens, take some photos. Then when the timer went off I'd go home and write about how I felt in my diary.”
It can be hard to know where to find nature. Many of us do not have a garden. And those of us who live in cities or towns may not live near a park or green space.
You may be worried about the cost of transport, plants or gardening equipment. You might get tired easily or have difficulty doing physical activities. And green spaces are not always accessible for everyone.
Here are some tips and suggestions for you to consider:
It can be difficult to access some types of nature activities if you don't have the money to pay for them. See our useful contacts page for a list of organisations that provide different nature-based activities. It could be worth having a look through these for free activities.
If you are worried about money, our information on money and mental health may also be helpful.
“I would encourage everyone to look out for wildlife in their own local environment. Even in a busy city it can be surprising how many species of plants and animals are there if you take a moment to pause and look around.”
There may be other practical issues to consider. You might be worried about safety. Some parks or green spaces may feel unsafe. You might be worried about crime, harassment or abuse, especially if you've had bad experiences in the past.
You might feel like spending time in nature is not for you. Or you may feel unwelcome or out-of-place in the countryside or other green spaces. You may not have the time if you are busy with work, studying, childcare or other responsibilities.
Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
“I volunteer with a local city farm. At first I was really nervous and my anxiety was sky high but I slowly built confidence. I made friends, learnt new skills and enjoyed being active and outside. Attending regularly built structure in my week and became something to look forward to.”
Try not to blame yourself if something you've tried doesn't work for you. Managing a mental health problem can be really difficult, especially when you're not feeling well. And different things work for different people.
“Volunteering gives my life purpose and meaning which (whilst not being well enough to work right now) is vitally important for my recovery. It helps build a sense of hope for the future.”
This information was published in November 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
References and bibliography available on request.
If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.