Wind, Rain, Sand and Positive Mental Health
Mental Health Awareness week will take place from 10th – 16th May and this year the theme is nature, so I thought I’d write a little about what nature means to me and what impact it has on my mental health.
For a long time, that is as far as I got with this blog because I couldn’t quite put into words the impact being in nature has on me. I couldn’t just write “It makes me feel good / brilliant / fantastic”. I wanted to delve into it more, what do I get out of being in nature?
Today is May Bank Holiday so to explore this feeling a bit more, earlier on today my family and I set out to the beach. I have to say, it nearly didn’t happen, looking out of the window, the rain was driving sideways, and leaves were being blown up the road, but needs must.
I’m not sure the kids felt that eager to support the quest but off we went, dodging puddles on the road and the build-up of traffic from more cautious weather impacted driving.
Arriving at the beach car park I wouldn’t say there was an eagerness to exiting the car, more like a “shall we just drive about for a bit, get some chips and head back home?”
But we didn’t give in and with some more persuasion we were all out and heading over the sand dunes to the beach.
The tide was as far out as I had ever seen it and the beach seemed to go on forever, so the mission was to reach the sea. The beach was largely deserted, just a few hardy souls taking their dogs for a walk, oh and an ice cream van, obviously.
At first, we were a little cautious with our steps, my wife and I encouraging the kids to avoid the water pools and streams of water running down the beach. That soon changed and suddenly having dry shoes didn’t matter, being wet through and cold didn’t matter.
What mattered was that we were outside laughing, shouting, running, and jumping, it was a massive emotional uplift. We were out of the house, away from electronics, notifications, jobs and the four walls.
Making it to the waters edge we whooped and shouted, knowing we could be as loud as we liked, and nobody would be bothered. We had the freedom from the restrictions everyone has felt so much of in this past year with the pandemic.
I didn’t just feel the sense of happiness, it was like a huge release of pressure was bursting out of me. A pressure that I hadn’t really noticed that had been building up inside. I spend my life talking about self-awareness, so it really caught me out knowing how much pressure I had felt.
Happiness is what remains
As we turned around to head back up the beach, the wind and rain were now against us, making it a proper slog. Our hands started to get cold, and we were all soaked to the skin. The streams of water that we had jumped over on the way down to the water’s edge, we now just walked through with full abandonment.
When we finally sat down in the car, wet clothes stripped off and the heater blasting out, the one thing that was remaining from the beach was happiness – happiness and sand. You can never get rid of the sand.
And that’s what nature gives me, an emotional uplift. Mental health is a barometer of how we think, how we feel, our self-esteem, how we see the past, present and future.
Wherever I am on that barometer, being in nature is a shift up the barometer, it is one of my main protective factors. It is something I am lucky enough to have all around me that I can use as a coping strategy for all the stresses and challenges that life throws at me.
Even at my lowest ever point when our first child was still-born, the one thing my wife and I felt like we wanted and needed to do was to walk. We found a woodland close by which we hadn’t explored before. We walked its paths every day, it was the start of a routine, doing something we enjoyed that helped us through the grieving and healing process.
Studies have shown how spending time in nature can help with depression, anxiety, and many other mental health problems but there is also the physical side to spending time in nature.
Over the last year I’ve spoken to many people who have told me they have no intention to go back to the gym as during the pandemic they have found a new love of exercising outdoors.
So, what does nature give you? Notice how you are feeling before, during and after connecting with nature. Is there somewhere new can you explore for the first time, what’s round the next corner?
Tim is a mental health and wellbeing practitioner, life coach, personal trainer, and hypnotherapist living in Merseyside. He has been working in corporate wellbeing for the last 8 years, promoting positive mental and physical health all over the UK and helping to support individuals to take their next step. Currently working from home whilst getting under his wife and two children’s feet.