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The healing power of nature

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme was nature. This may come as no surprise due to the long months of the pandemic that encouraged the public to turn to nature.

As an industry, it’s safe to say that we’ve always known the benefits and power of nature, but it’s fantastic that its importance is being acknowledged, especially in this way.

Conversations around mental health have become more commonplace in recent years. However, since that start of the pandemic, the effects of physical distancing, social isolation, and the loss of loved ones have evidently deepened mental health issues, causing many to feel immense distress.

As reported by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), in April 2020 amid the early days of the first lockdown, 8% of adults across the UK said they had thoughts about suicide. Sadly, this figure has now risen to 13% (as of February 2021).

After a year of uncertainty and raised levels of anxiety, stress, and depression, due to the effects of COVID-19, access to outdoor space has been noticed as an important factor in supporting our general wellbeing.

The MHF stated that more than half of UK adults said being close to nature has helped improve their mental health, with 4 in 10 people saying nature made them feel less worried or anxious.

Fresh air and exercise has long been recommended as a way to feel better physically and mentally. Evidence shows that the quality of our relationship with nature is part of the reason for its positive impact on our wellbeing.

It’s no surprise then, that MHF’s goals for Mental Health Awareness Week were to inspire people to connect with nature in new ways, and to convince decision makers at all levels that access to and the quality of nature is a mental health and social justice issue, as well as an environmental one.

Understandably, individuals and companies throughout our industry are getting involved, promoting mental health support, and encouraging people to #connectwithnature.

Throughout the month of May, here at Pro Landscaper, we’re taking part in Take Action, Get Active. This means every single day we’re doing half an hour of exercise outdoors to raise money for the MHF.

idverde UK has enrolled staff members onto a mental health first aid training course, and The Wildlife Trusts, The Landscape Academy and the Woodland Trust have been sharing useful tips and resources to encourage people to connect with nature.

Tivoli has always been very active in promoting mental wellbeing support and resources. Mental Health Awareness Week provided the opportunity to remind staff of this: “we circulated guides, videos and links provided by the MHF, encouraging our teams to consider the ways they can connect with nature, and how they can weave those plans into everyday life,” explains Cathy Dawson, HR director.

Ground Control ensures that all employees have access to the BUPA Health Minds EAP service, their own specialist counsellors, and it pays for everyone to have the Calm app. For Mental Health Awareness week in particular, it focussed on work/life balance, encouraging people to share tips on how to switch off, and training employees to set up technology which can help give them a break.

Green-tech ran a week-long social media campaign to educate and support, showcasing projects where mental health featured heavily, and voicing its support for other industry organisations including Perennial Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society.

Though nature can’t solve all our problems, it can certainly boost positive emotions, which as an industry, we are so clearly already aware of. It’s great to see that nature is being officially recognised as a fundamental factor towards the support of our wellbeing and happiness.

2021 has been a huge year for nature, and ultimately, there couldn’t have been a more important time to understand the links between nature and mental health.

READ NEXT: HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT YOUR STAFF’S MENTAL HEALTH

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