A walk along the Thames, a bike ride at your local park, doing some gardening… these kinds of activities are very beneficial if you’re anxious, stressed, depressed or having trouble sleeping. And with London being one of the greenest cities in Europe (it was named a National Park City in 2019), the Good Thinking team would encourage you to explore the many natural spaces as a way to improve your mental health.
According to a 2021 survey by the Mental Health Foundation, seven in 10 UK adults say that being close to nature improves their mood. As the charity's Chief Executive Mark Rowland comments, “Nature can be a powerful ally in protecting our mental health. During the pandemic, millions of us discovered nature's power to relieve stress, worry, anxiety and restore us with positive emotions, such as joy.”
Many other studies have found positive links between nature and mental wellbeing – being outside can reduce stress, improve mood, encourage physical activity and facilitate social interactions. For example, a trial in Denmark found that a particular type of nature-based therapy was as effective as a specific Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for treating stress-related illnesses and research by the University of Derby has led to the development of the five ways to wellbeing with nature. A new study by King’s College London has even revealed that seeing or hearing birds boosts mental wellbeing.
In recent years, awareness of climate change and other environmental issues has grown and so too has our appreciation of the natural world. Indeed, many called for a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to help fix our broken relationship with nature.
As Adam Murray, Head of Community Empowerment at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), says: “Connecting with the natural world is more important than ever. [During the pandemic], as we juggled work, family life and wellbeing, all from the confines of home, the natural world became a playground, a gym, a tonic, and much more besides. But while our lives have changed, the threats to nature have not gone away.”