We are all familiar with the therapeutic powers of being in the presence of nature’s beauty.
For Mental Health Awareness Week 2023, we’ve teamed up with Suzy Reading, Chartered Psychologist, Coach and Mental Health Author to give you a few ways you can make this popular restorative practice even more effective.
We all intuitively feel the transformative power of spending time in nature, but do you know how it benefits us exactly? Let’s explore the reasons together and find out how to make the most of your time in the great outdoors.
How does nature support our mental well-being?
There is proven science behind the restorative effects of nature. By knowing more about them, you’ll be able to maximise their healing potential.
- Morning exposure to sunlight not only boosts our circadian rhythms (our body’s natural 24-hour internal clock) to make us feel alert during the day and drowsier when it’s time to sleep, but also gives us a dose of Vitamin D and improves our immune function. This is because sun exposure makes our immune cells move faster around the body, helping the body fight inflammation.
- Being by the beach often feels soothing while walking barefoot in the grass can feel grounding, but how does this work exactly? We have negative ions to thank. Negative ions are found in crashing waves or in a forest; you breathe them in as they evaporate from moving water and plants. They attach themselves to oxidants, neutralising them and thereby reducing oxidative stress in our body.
- Scents such as phytoncides, the antimicrobial organic compounds emitted by trees, help to boost our immune system when we inhale them while walking by. Our gut health is even boosted by exposure to the diversity of microbes in green spaces.
- Microbes found in soil stimulate serotonin production, helping us to feel relaxed and happier. So, don’t shy away from getting your hands a little mucky next time you’re gardening!
How to best harness the magical power of nature
Make sure to bring and wear the right kit - this can include your best pair of supportive shoes, layers of clothing you can adjust to your comfort as well as sun protection, shades, a hat, and a water bottle.
Set the intention to use all of your senses – make a conscious effort to notice all the sounds, seasonal scents, colours as well as the types of flora and fauna around you. Another great technique here is to hunt for fractal patterns; these are patterns that occur on a progressively finer scale like spider webs, leaves, trees, palm fronds, shells and pinecones, all of which are soothing for the mind.
Get to know your local environment - try making a list of different places you can go to feel different things. For example, near water to feel cleansed, a high vantage point for a fresh perspective or open fields for a sense of freedom and space.
About Suzy Reading
Suzy is a mother of two, an author, Chartered Psychologist and Coach. She specialises in self-care and helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance.
It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, both young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges.
Suzy figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and has now made her home in the hills of Hertfordshire, UK.
Her first book The Self-Care Revolution published by Aster came out in 2017, while Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness & Self-Care for Children and Parents and The Little Book of Self-Care both came out in 2019. Self-Care for Tough Times and her first children’s book This Book Will (Help) Make You Happy were published in 2021.
Her other books And Breathe and Sit to Get Fit as well as her new deck of cards The Little Box of Self-Care came out in 2022. Her latest book Rest to Reset is hot off the press now, just in time to shake off the winter blues and boost the rebirth of spring.
You can join Suzy’s Wellbeing Community at: