St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Green spaces, gardening & wellbeing – Relaxation

Mental Health Gardening

This blog is part of a series based on the infographic by Decorative Aggregates. Read the previous posts here.

In this month’s blog we’ll be looking at how being in a garden or out in nature can help us to relax. There are many daily stressors in life but one of the best ways to counteract this is by getting outside into nature, whether in your garden or local green space, and feeling the benefits that nature can give us.

One of the simplest forms of relaxation happens just by getting outside and taking a deep breath. We don’t often stop to pay attention to our breathing but even just taking a few slow, mindful breaths can help to relax us. When we are outside it is nice to look at trees and plants and think about how each breath we take in and out is linked to them and that without them we would not be able to breathe.

While you are focusing on your breathing take a few moments to be still and notice your other surroundings. The colours of the leaves, the shapes of the clouds in the sky, the feel of a breeze on your face, or the sound of bird song.  This helps you to be present in the moment and help to take your mind off the stresses in life. It gives you some time where you don’t need to think about anything else apart from what is right in front of you. This is also something that is possible to do from indoors. You can open a window to let fresh air in and notice what you can see from your window. Also if you can’t get outside, Youtube has many videos of relaxing nature sounds such as birdsong, running water or raindrops, and it is still beneficial in helping relaxation to just listen to these, even if you are not outside.

Nature’s calming effect comes from not only the fresh air, but also the ground. There is a harmless bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae) found in organic soil which can help to increase the release of serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’) in our brain which can boost our mood. A great reason to get out in the garden and get our hands dirty! You could plant bulbs in the soil or in pots which will have the added benefit of something to look forward to in springtime or if you have space then this is the perfect time of year to plant trees. The benefit of having muddy hands can even be extended a step further, quite literally, by walking barefoot on the ground. Whilst this might not seem as appealing in the cold winter months there have been studies that show that walking barefoot, or ‘grounding’ can also help with improving relaxation. This is thought to be caused by the electric charge of the earth ‘balancing out’ the electrons in the body to reset them.

All of this is a great reason to get outside into a garden or local green space and fully appreciate and notice the space you are in and get your hands (of feet!) a bit dirty!

This piece was written by Freya Lovett who supports our Bearing Fruit group. If you are interested in joining our Ecotherapy programme you’d be very welcome.

23 November 2020 | Categories: Ecotherapy, Inspiration, Opinion Piece | Tags: bacteria, breathing, connection, deep breath, earth, ecotherapy, grounding, mental health, mental wellbeing, nature, relaxation, seratonin