Late spring/early summer is my favourite time of year. I just love watching the countryside burst into life, initially the spring flowers followed by the blossoms and then the vibrant green leaves on the trees and hedgerows. Birds in full song, darting around building nests then feeding their young. The increased hours of daylight and warmth in the sunshine. It is part of my daily routine, to go for a walk in the beautiful Scottish Borders, where I live. On my walk today, I found myself reflecting on the relationship between stress and nature. For me, personally, I enjoy feasting my senses on the sights, sounds and smells around me. This special time also provides me with an opportunity to reflect and for thoughts to come to the surface. The physical exercise is good for my heart and lungs and general fitness. An increasing amount of evidence shows the benefits of nature in improving well-being and reducing the impact of stress. A study by MIND showed that 95% of respondents reported an improvement in their mood after spending time outside. Embracing the natural world can reduce feelings of stress and anger, whilst enhancing feelings of calm and joy.  It can also encourage physical activity, leading to improvements in physical health, social connectivity and self-esteem.

Living in a rural area and having a garden, it is easy for me to enjoy the seasonal changes of the natural world. But what about those living in cities, often without a garden, how can they embrace nature and benefit from all it has to offer?

Ways to incorporate nature into your day

Let’s start inside then work our way outwards. Research has shown that even watching wildlife documentaries on a screen can improve well-being.  Positive emotions such as joy, awe and amusement increase, whilst negative ones such as stress, fear and tiredness, decrease.

Looking out of windows allows people to see the changing skies and birds. Views of gardens and trees can also inspire. Window boxes provide an opportunity to engage with nature through the choosing of plants and then the planting. Bird feeders hanging from windows provide a place for birds to come and to be enjoyed from the house. Nesting boxes with cameras provide the opportunity to observe nest building, chick hatching and the feeding of fledglings first hand.

Owning a pet allows us to connect with another living being. This can improve a sense of connectedness and reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Owning a dog encourages regular walks, providing the opportunity to embrace nature and often to connect with other dog walkers.

Away from the house, try to utilise green spaces in the local area for recreation but also for your walk or ride to work. When time allows, travel to scenic spots for walks or just to sit and reflect. Also, consider looking for groups and projects engaging with nature where you can meet new people and learn new skills.

The joys of a garden

Having a garden provides multiple ways to engage with nature. Pots with flowers, bird baths and trees provide low maintenance joy. For those who are keen to be more involved there are many ways to encourage wildlife into the garden and to increase the variety of nature. For example, allowing areas to grow wild, to encourage pollinators, and holes in fences to allow hedgehogs to travel between gardens. Planning a garden so that it has colour all year round brings great joy. Growing vegetables provides great satisfaction (although there is potential for frustration too when they get eaten by rabbits and insects!)

Stress and nature clearly have a positive relationship. Nature is always there, following its natural rhythms. I would encourage you to find ways to incorporate it into your life on a regular basis so that you can benefit from all it has to offer.

If you are struggling with stress and would appreciate someone to talk to and to help you feel better about life, do get in touch.