31 May City Giving Day participants share volunteer stories for National Volunteers' Week
How we found nature supported us through the pandemic
The Mental Health Foundation have recently revealed from their research, that going for walks outside was one of the top coping strategies for people during the pandemic, and 45% of people reported being in green spaces as vital for their mental health. To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week and the Green Ribbon campaign some of the members of our team have shared how nature has supported them and how it benefits their wellbeing.
“At the beginning of the pandemic I found myself, like so many others, in a heightened state of anxiety. Our flats quickly became our workplaces, study spaces, pubs, places of refuge and unease. It was easy to spend all hours of the day confined to your overcrowded space. During these times, and the months that have passed I have found so much solace in getting outside and enjoying the parks and nature around me. In addition to the sense of calm my daily walks have given me, they’ve also provided me with a sense of community. Passing the same storefronts every day has allowed me to connect with people in my neighbourhood and allowed me to develop unique bonds and relationships as we’ve all weathered the uncertainty of this past year. So, this mental health awareness week enjoy nature but also the opportunity it gives you to connect with new people in your community to learn more about what makes your neighbourhood meaningful to so many.”
“Being in nature has been key for supporting my mental health during a challenging year. I am privileged to live near Wimbledon Common, and its beautiful trees, ponds, wildlife, and many winding routes that we are still exploring after several years. A few years ago I came across the Japanese practice of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, which focuses on the positive impact of taking in the forest or nature through your senses, and it really resonated with me. Exercising in nature is great (and both are great for your mental health) but being still in nature, and watching the sunlight dance through the trees, feeling the breeze on my face, and smelling the start of spring, gives me a sense of peace and awe that connects me to something greater and helps me feel centred. This doesn’t mean it is always easy to be in nature, logistically for many living in cities, or that it needs to be an Instagram worthy view to support your mental health and let’s be honest, those daily walks during lockdown have at times felt monotonous. But even simply sitting and watching the family of squirrels in the tree outside our flat, that we’ve affectionately named ‘The Munchies’, play together and collect leaves, only to have half of the leaves fall during their climb, makes me smile and reminds me that whilst life can be tough, it is also beautiful.”
“Lockdown has shown me new paths and scenery around home that otherwise I would have never seen. As a person who often used to train, the impact of nature has highly helped in lifting my moods whenever it was needed and lower the stress and anxiety of the pandemic, especially during the sunny days. Connecting with nature has always make me feel happier and more energised as well as making tasks seem more manageable. I would definitely recommend getting out there every day even for a few minutes to connect with nature and to feel the great benefits it offers.”
“I was lucky enough to grow up in the countryside so for me nature has always been something I have had as part of my daily life. During the pandemic this became even more important as I felt the need to keep a sense of normality in my life. I find my mental health is better if I am keeping a routine and the pandemic certainly threw that out, so I concentrated on getting out for a walk each day at lunch time, something often when in an office I wouldn’t do. I found it great to step away from my laptop and just spend some time outside, whatever the weather, enjoying the sounds around me and the routine of one step after another. It is amazing what is actually on your doorstep, what different parts of nature you notice and appreciate each day and I also found it uplifting to see so many other people out and about enjoying nature as well through the difficult times.”