Every May, the Mental Health Foundation hosts Mental Health Awareness Week (10th-16th May 2021). It is an event intended to encourage the UK to consider and discuss mental health and how to look after their wellbeing. Each year the Mental Health Foundation chooses a theme to centre these vital conversations around. The theme for 2021 is nature.
With a new Environment Bill and the UK hosting the G7 nations for vital talks prioritising a greener future, 2021 is going to be a huge year for nature. The conversations facilitated by Mental Health Awareness Week will help both individuals and policy maker to realise the connection between nature and mental health and further emphasise the vital need to preserve it for future generations.
The pandemic has also underscored the benefits that nature has for our mental health: “being in nature has been one of the most popular ways the public have tried to sustain good mental health at a challenging time.” (Mental Health Foundation, 2021). Hopefully, with an understanding of the connection between nature and mental health, these habits can persist in a post-pandemic world.
What are the benefits of nature?
The benefits that nature yields for our mental health are vast, including reduced stress and anger, increased relaxation, and encouragement to be more active thus improving your physical health, too. A study conducted by Mind found 71% of those polled reported reduced depression and less tension after a walk in the park, with 90% reporting an increase in self-esteem.
How can this help you and your employees?
1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety or depression) each week in England, and 2019/20 saw 17.9 million workdays lost to stress, depression and anxiety. Even the smallest investment in wildlife for your business could see a 10% reduction in work absence, and a 15% increase in productivity.
Knowing the benefits of nature on mental health is all well and good, but how practical is it to implement these in the workplace?
Here are some suggestions:
- Buy some potted plants or flowers for the office.
- Share photos and stories of employees’ favourite nature spots. These images could also be used as screensavers, particularly in offices that don’t have as much green space nearby.
- Put some bird feeders by the window.
- Encourage lunchtime walks. This could get competitive with the use of fitness trackers. This could be especially beneficial for those still primarily working from home as it encourages interaction with colleagues and nature no matter where employees are.
- If your team is at a construction site, encourage them to look out for the unexpected and small signs of nature, be it a fox, or birdsong, or a change in the direction of wind. Try to connect with nature with all of your senses.
Engaging with nature can also help employees use the 54321 mindfulness method that uses an individual’s senses to ground themselves during periods of heightened stress or anxiety.
If you would like more general advice on how to support your employee’s mental health, WA Management’s Mental Health Awareness online training course is a great introductory resource. You can also get an exclusive 10% off this and our Stress Awareness e-learning course during the month of May by using the code ‘mentalhealth10’ during checkout!