The Benefits of the Outdoors to Mental Health - World Mental Health Day

thebristolbotanist
Published on October 10th 2019
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A group of people standing on top of a mountain
As part of World Mental Health Day, Molly shares her experiences with plants and nature in her own struggle with mental health. Read her nature diaries to follow more of her journey.

What is World Mental Health Day?

The mental health charity Mind suggests that in any given year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. Whether or not we are in the midst of a global mental health crisis, I am unqualified to say. But it is highly likely that everybody reading this will know someone that has experienced some form of ill mental health in the past 12 months.
The 10th of October, World Mental Health Day, is an excellent opportunity to show your support for those who might be struggling, raise awareness of mental health problems and advocate against social stigma.
a person walking through a greenhouse filled with plants

My Personal Experience of Mental Health

After a stressful final year at university and a six-month bout of unemployment, my mental health had reached an all-time low at the end of 2018, and I was struggling with anxiety and depression. These are two of the most widely spread conditions, with 460 million people worldwide experiencing one or the other in 2017, according to the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation. In a bid to try and feel like myself again, I did quite a bit of research around the topic. I started to see a lot of articles and books about how getting outside and gardening could be good for mental wellbeing and alleviate the symptoms of depression.
the clifton suspension bridge covered in snow

The Wild Remedy

A book called The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us - A Diary, by Emma Mitchell, almost became a guidebook for me in seeking out the outdoors to alleviate my depressive state. I found her summaries of the science behind the curative power of nature and her beautiful illustrations to be informative and inspiring. I highly recommend giving it a read if you’re interested in the topic!
My first step to a ‘wilder’ existence was to buy a few houseplants. I found that I really enjoyed looking after them and that the greenery that they added to our home seemed to improve my mood.
Some houseplants in vases
So, after months of applying to office jobs with no success, I decided to look for something in horticulture in the hope that the positive effects I had felt from caring for my houseplants could be magnified to a restorative level. In January, I started working at a garden centre and plant nursery. The combination of having a full-time job and being outdoors around plants and nature has helped me to heal more than I could have imagined. Not only have I learnt so much, but I feel more connected to the world around me and have gained a heightened awareness of the seasons - something that I feel many of us have lost in an increasingly urban society.
A rocky beach

The Benefits of Green Spaces

There is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that the quality of green spaces within an urban neighbourhood is directly related to greater well-being and lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress.
The idea of green therapy reaches worldwide; studies have been conducted collaboratively from all over Europe and the US. In The Wild Remedy, Mitchell discusses the Chinese and Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ to benefit the mind and body. Just a few months ago, an article in The Guardian detailed how gardening was helping to fight depression in London. The movement is gaining momentum, and I think that reconnecting with our planet is imperative to our collective wellbeing.
I could write pages on this topic; but in short, what I am trying to say is that the science and research is there to support the idea that green spaces are good for the soul. Although everyone heals differently, and it may not work for everyone, it is certainly working for me.
A herd of sheep standing on top of a lush green field

If You Are Struggling

This article details my personal experience, and although I hope that it may inspire some people to get outside, it should not be taken as official medical advice. If you are struggling, please contact a medical professional, talk to someone close to you, or contact your local mental health charity. Here are a couple of links:
A close up of a hand holding a butterfly
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Lots to see

Making plans to stay local or explore a new area? Use the Places map to explore and find out more details of gardens around your current location. To find gardens and garden centres near you download our free app.
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