Friday 14 May 2021

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

This past week, BSBI staff and volunteers on our Comms Team have been contributing to Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has a focus on nature. They've been taking to social media to share their experience of how connecting with nature can help us all improve our mental health. 

Orchid hunter Leif Bersweden (image on right), who runs the BSBI Instagram account, said: "For me, being surrounded by nature is a restorative, calming experience: paying attention to a daisy in the pavement or the song of a blackbird simply slows me down, keeps me in the moment and acts as a reminder of what's really important in life".

April Webb (image below left) from Plant Alert said: "Nature feeds my curiosity, creativity and soul. It's the slap in the face I need some times to stop and just 'be'. There is always something new to see, to learn, to experience if you stop & just go with nature's pace for a while".

The Mental Health Foundation launched Mental Health Awareness Week 21 years ago and they say they chose nature as the theme for this year's Week because "being in nature is known to be an effective way of tacking mental health problems and of protecting our well-being. This seemed particularly important this year - in the year of a pandemic. 

"Our research has shown that being in nature has been one of the most popular ways the public have tried to sustain good mental health at a challenging time". 

Ciara Dwyer (image below right) from BSBI Events & Comms committee said “Spending time outdoors in nature is a place for me to escape. I can distract myself with wildlife: listening to bird songs, looking at plants on a walk with friends, or going for a run in the local woodland.”

BSBI Fundraising Manager Sarah Woods (image below left) said: "I’ve been lucky to know for a long time that my little soul is happiest in green space – I tend to embarrass my friends with contented sighs as soon as we head out on a walk. The best part for me is that it is accessible in so many forms – from single plants to big adventures, so you can access the dose you need to deal with whatever else life is throwing your way".

Many botanists, plant-lovers and BSBI members who regularly read this blog can vouch for the restorative power of the natural world. 

Being in nature and enjoying our wonderful wild flowers has been a lifelong passion and a source of well-being for lots of us, especially during the past year. 

There is also a growing body of evidence to back up this claim - check out these links: 

  • 2003 paper comparing the restorative effects of walking in a nature reserve compared to an urban environment;
  • 2019 report commissioned by the Wildlife Trusts concludes that 'prescribing nature works - and is excellent value for money' 
  • this US study from 2008 indicates that workers in offices with live plants, and window views of exterior green spaces, felt better about their jobs and the work they performed; 
  • and this paper describes how researchers used fMRI scans to look at the effects on brain activity of viewing a flower - their conclusion was that it "downregulated negative emotions and decreased both elevated blood pressure and cortisol levels".


Ellen Goddard (image on right), who analysed this year's New Year Plant Hunt results, said: "Nature has always been my form of escapism. Whether it be retreating to the countryside or a local woodland, the peace I feel when surrounded by the vibrant colours and sounds of nature always help to clear my mind. Even the smallest plant found in the middle of a city can bring a smile to my face as I think of how something so small is surviving in the most surprising places". 

My own experience (Louise, BSBI Comms Officer) is that the natural world was never as important to me as when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. We spent a lot of time together in those final years walking in our local woods and meadows. His enjoyment of wildflowers, trees and wildlife was as keen as it had been throughout his life and I found that revisiting those woods and meadows helped me get through the painful early months of bereavement. Nature helps us through the difficult times as well as making the good days even better!"

The final word goes to Jodey Peyton (image on left), Chair of BSBI Events & Comms committee, Vice Chair of the National Federation of Biological Recording and, in her day job, an ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology: "Being able to spend time outside in the natural world is incredibly important to me and helps me turn off my internal fret system (especially if it is combined with a nice picnic!). Every walk with flowers, insects (even the nuisance bitey ones!) and birds tweeting is a reminder to me why I work in Ecology and is why I am so proud to be a part of the BSBI! Everyone should have access to and be able spend time in nature. I am incredibly passionate that we all work together to empower ourselves and our neighbours to be able to enjoy and support nature and each other!

Well said Jodey, especially the bit about the picnic - not so sure about the bitey insects though!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment!