During Mental Health Awareness Week, The Mental Health Foundation suggests making a habit each day of connecting to the nature in your local area. Student Life Disability and Mental health adviser Cari Longhurst has some tips for bringing nature to you.
• If you live in a town, flat, or in student accommodation, it can be easy to feel disconnected from nature. If you can, travel out to the countryside or the coast. If this isn't possible or simply feels too overwhelming, it is still possible to connect with nature from home.
• Grow something. If, like many, you have limited space or no garden, consider planting a few seeds on a windowsill and watch them grow. Nurturing my houseplants has been a real source of joy for me this year - I may have been spotted talking to them on occasion! I'm especially proud that one of my cacti flowered this year!
• Watch a sunset. Settle down one evening to watch the sun set or get up that little bit earlier to watch it rise through the bedroom window. If you can, why not go for a short walk outside and experience it first-hand, the Ipswich waterfront has some glorious sunsets!
• Eat al fresco. Sunlight is important for many reasons, and it gives us that much needed vitamin D (very useful especially in times of stress!): enjoying a cup of tea, breakfast or lunch outside is a great way to absorb some extra sunlight. If you don’t have a garden, open up your windows and sit by them. This will give you the feeling of bringing the outside in.
• Try some nature-related mindfulness. Find a quiet spot where you feel safe and focus on your breath flowing in and out. Take deep breath, then focus your mind on the smells and sounds around you. If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, try out our 'space for mindfulness' SilverCloud module.
• Use essential oils or candles. Certain scents can trigger strong physical and emotional responses. Find an essential oil that connects with a calming outdoor feeling, for example lavender or pine, to diffuse indoors. I'm partial to a scented candle, too, and these are another great way of filling our homes with fragrance.
• Go for a walk. Research shows that walking can help with our mental health - reducing anxiety, depression, and stress. Try to pay attention to birdsong and plants growing even in the most urban setting.
• Stargazing is a magical way to experience the beauty of our natural world. Find a cosy spot to lie down in the back garden or look out of the window. The longer we look up, the more stars we will discover. Find out more at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/ top-tips-for-stargazing