Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: Connecting with nature and incorporating it into your wellbeing strategy
A recent study on the mental health impacts of the pandemic showed that going for walks outside was ranked as one of our top coping strategies and 45% said being surrounded by nature was vital for their mental health.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 (10-16th May) and this year’s theme is about connecting with nature and the benefits it can have on our mental health. During the COVID-19 pandemic there was an increase in the number of people turning to nature as a coping mechanism to maintain positive mental health during a very volatile period.
Nature is fundamental to both our psychological and emotional wellbeing. For the majority of human civilisation, we have always lived surrounded by nature. However, it is only up until the last five generations most of us have lived and worked in an environment that is hugely separated from nature.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we spoke to employees on the importance of nature for their wellbeing and took a look at how our wellbeing strategy reflects that.
Incorporating nature into the wellbeing strategy here at AND
Part of our work to reduce the stigma centred around mental health, is celebrating, and bringing to light important events such as this years ‘World Mental Health Day’. More specifically, we’ve reflected on how nature is incorporated into our wellbeing strategy here at AND, in line with this years’ theme ‘Connecting with nature’.
Encouraging exercise in nature: Taking time away from work is an essential part of maintaining good mental health, but employees often find it difficult to step out of the office or make time for exercising outdoors.
Like many businesses, we had to adapt to working remotely in response to the pandemic. Productivity remained high and due to its success; we are continuing to implement this for staff longer-term. In some cases, working from home means employees can maintain a better work-life balance, positively impacting health, particularly true for those who commute.
The AND office is situated near Epping Forest which compromises of 2,400-hectare (5,900-acre) area of ancient woodland between Epping in Essex. This is perfect for employees who want to keep-up their routine daily walks, picked up during full-time remote working as a coping mechanism, even when returning to the office. Regular physical activity like this is fundamental to boosting dopamine and endorphins, which is why management encourage staff to go outside and take longer breaks, especially during the recent Spring months. Naturally, employees return to tasks feeling calmer, sharper and refreshed – boosting overall productivity.
Reducing our organisations carbon footprint: As nature is so fundamental to our wellbeing it’s important that as a company, we take steps to protect nature by questioning our actions and choices as individuals and as an organisation. Climate change is also something that causes many people anxiety and by proactively including sustainable initiatives into our wellbeing strategy, we can look to reduce that whilst protecting nature. In line with that, we are very pleased to announce that we are now a cycle to work employer, a great scheme that allows staff to obtain bikes and accessories at a discounted price. Essentially employees can save money and take steps to reduce their individual carbon footprint when commuting to work.
Theydon Bois, Epping
Employees reflect on nature as fundamental to their wellbeing
At AND Technology Research we are always keeping the conversation open about mental health, so we invited our team to share how nature has supported them during the pandemic. Their experiences are shared below:
Engineer: “My “happy places” have always been somewhere in nature. Before my family moved to a new house it was Epping forest. My family had to move last year, and I wouldn’t be able to visit it as easily. I was quite upset about this and I immediately left the house and walked for about two or three hours through the forest. Not even ten minutes in I felt better, the trees and wildlife soothing me.”
“During covid I’ve continue to incorporate nature into my life to relax. Especially recently when I got a bike through work, I’ve been able to travel along the river here in Cardiff where I’m at university, finding new parks and woods to destress in, or just stopping to watch the ducks and swans swim past. After every coursework assignment, or work deadline I’ve been straight out on the bike to “get out of my head for a bit”. Honestly, it’s done the world of good”.
“I’m not sure how I would’ve coped without my daily walks through lock down. They became one of my top coping strategies for managing my mental health. Not only did I start getting out into nature more, I started to notice nature and all of the beautiful green spaces I had right here on my doorstep. Working remotely allowed me the flexibility to go for a walk during the day, this really helped give me headspace and re-frame my mindset, which I know has helped my productivity levels at work. I am hoping to continue my daily walks as I return to the office – luckily, we are situated right by Epping Forest so I will still be able to get my nature fix, which I am so grateful for.”
Gemma Rippengale, Senior Executive
The Green, Theydon Bois
Account Manager: “I love going out early morning before everyone is up so I can have ‘me’ time, no demands from family that early and it’s peaceful. And I am very grateful that I have been able to see my parents daily, as I am my dad’s carer, and whilst the situation is stressful, demanding, emotionally and physically draining, I know I am lucky to still have my parents, and to have seen them throughout the lockdown. Finally, it’s good to be grateful for what we have, and not to fret about what we do not have.”
For more information about this years’ Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 visit mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw or join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #mentalhealthawarenessweek #MHAW and #connectwithnature.