Nature as Self-Care
Updated: Jul 3
At a time when we are faced with the many challenges of COVID-19, it is important to protect our mental and physical well-being. In considering the ways we can achieve this, we can explore what can be done safely, in line with current guidelines.
Self-care is a crucial part of improving and protecting your overall health and resilience. The great thing about self-care is that it is under your own control.
As we have seen in previous blog posts, mindfulness is an important mental skill to boost well-being and resilience. In today’s post, we will be looking at what happens when you combine mindfulness with nature.
Nature is a fantastic resource for your self-care. Scientific research shows that mindfully connecting with nature produces a variety of health benefits. It promotes physical, mental, and social well-being. For example, connecting with nature is proven to reduce stress and increase feelings of calm.
Spending time in nature renews your attention and increases positive affect, leaving you feeling refreshed and focussed. The physiological effects of nature have also been proven using stress biomarkers such as cortisol, along with a reduction in heart rate.
Another aspect of self-care through nature concerns the benefits of acting compassionately. When you connect with nature, you are likely to increase your compassion towards the natural environment and perhaps engage in pro-environmental behaviours. This sense of ‘giving back’ can have a positive knock-on effect on your own well-being.
In our MST4Life™ programme, connecting with nature is an important part of young people’s experiences. During the programme, young people take part in a residential trip to the University’s Raymond Priestley Centre in Coniston Waters, Lake District.
Through this trip, young people explore the natural environment, away from the city centre, and conquer mental and physical challenges, such as climbing The Old Man Coniston.
Participants in the programme have come away from this nature-based experience feeling motivated, focussed, positive, and refreshed.
Activities to try
Now that we know a bit more about how and why connecting with nature is a great self-care resource, let’s look at some activities you could try. Some of these can even be practised from home!
Begin by mindfully engaging with the present moment using the infographic below:
Keep a nature diary. Adhering to local restrictions, take a photo of a flower or tree. Do you hear birdsong? Can you see a breeze ripple over some water? What shape is the landscape? Make some notes about how these observations make you feel, on your phone or piece of paper.
If you are unable to leave home, notice the everyday mundane nature around you. What plants and animals can you see from your window, garden, or driveway? If you live in an urban area, do you notice any pockets of nature, such as a pigeon, grass, or insect?
Try some nature-based meditation from Calm.
Deepen the connection by adding meaning to your experiences. Might an early spring bud symbolise resting and renewing, or potential for new growth? If you are feeling creative, try painting or writing a poem based on the beauty of nature and its significance to you.
If possible, consider leaving some birdfeed out for the birds.
How did you get on?
We would love to hear how you got on trying out some of these activities. Which one is your favourite? Let us know over on Twitter using #MSTtoolkit #MST4Life. If you would like to find out more about our MST4Life™ programme and related mental skills training resources, you can check out our free Mental Skills Training Toolkit. Click here for more grounding techniques infographics to try out.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog using the form at the bottom of this page. Stay tuned for a future blog post, where we will be continuing the theme of self-care. Next time, we will be exploring how practising self-compassion can help to boost your resilience and well-being.
Photo credit: Reshot.