Keeping nature in mind

30 Days Wild is the perfect opportunity to discover the health benefits of spending time in nature. Rob Gordon shares some of his top tips for relaxing in nature this June.

Spending time in nature is something that brings a lot of people happiness. Whether it’s the peaceful sound of birds, rustling leaves, and running water, or the sight of lush plants or our wonderful wildlife, nature has a powerful impact on how we feel. Because of this, it can really help with our mental health.

I’m someone who lives with mental health conditions, and I’ve witnessed first-hand how nature has helped with my wellbeing and my recovery over the years. Just spending time in nature has been a benefit for me, but there are also some techniques I’ve used which I would like to share as well.

The first of these is called forest bathing, or shinrin yoku. This is a Japanese practice that is all about immersing yourself in nature. It doesn’t have to be done in a forest, so any place with nature will do! To practice forest bathing, first find yourself somewhere where you are safe and comfortable. You can be standing or sitting down – whatever feels best for you.

Then, take some deep, long breaths. You’ll want to roll your shoulders back to relax, and unclench your jaw. Then, take time to focus on each of your five senses, one at a time. What can you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel? Take some time over each sense and think about how it relates to your surroundings. It can take as long as you want, for however long you find it useful.

You don’t have to do something as structured as forest bathing, though. It could just be going for a walk, taking your time over each step, and feeling connected to nature. It could even be taking a moment to stop when you’re out and about, allowing your attention to drift to something that you notice around you, and spending some time on it. All it takes is a moment to find a space to relax.

Even better, we know that methods like this really do help us. Petrichor – that distinctive smell you might notice after rain – has a calming effect. Scientific studies have found that forest bathing does have a positive impact on our mental health. Even the sounds of nature have an impact: listening to things like birdsong can lessen our feelings of stress and anxiety. Nature can help all of us feel more relaxed, and as someone with mental health conditions it’s formed part of my personal wellbeing journey.

For this year’s 30 Days Wild, it’s the perfect time to see how nature can help you. Our own wellbeing is so important, so let’s spend at least a few of those 30 days by finding some time to look after ourselves.