Mental Health Awareness Week 18 – 24 May 2020 Mental Health Awareness Week These are challenging times for our mental health but one of the positive things to come out of this pandemic has been a hugely increased awareness of how spending time in nature makes us feel better. Whilst we feel this intuitively, the benefits of being outdoors are now widely recognised through multiple research projects. So we’ve put together some ways you can experience the natural world around you to improve your mood, whether you’re lucky enough to be able to access the Lake District and Cumbria currently or in your own ‘green patch’. Wander in the Woods Phytoncides are anti-microbial substances that trees release as a way to fight off disease and harmful substances. Studies have shown that breathing in phytoncides as you walk through the woods helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and has a beneficial effect on Natural Killer (NK) blood cells that help fight virus-infected cells. And while you’re wandering, why not brush up on your tree identification skills? Download the Woodland Trust Tree ID app. Blue Mindfulness Now this is a phrase that you may never have heard of but ‘Blue Mindfulness’ refers to activities which involve contact with natural water such as wild-swimming and surfing. Water has the power to soothe and calm us while we care for our planet and research has proven that immersion in cold water improves stress management. The Outdoor Swimming Society has loads of information on how and where to get your fix, including important safety advice. And if you don’t fancy getting in, just sitting beside water is a supremely relaxing experience. Looking out for the Small Things Looking out for the small things around you can help focus the mind, reducing anxious and worrying thoughts. Instead of looking up and out at the views, try looking down. Have you ever paid close attention to the lichen on a wall or the fabulous patterns on a rock or the intricate detail of a leaf or petal? The best way to open your eyes to this incredible micro-world is with a magnifying eye lens. Buy one for a couple of pounds online and spend a couple of mind-relaxing, mind-expanding hours exploring.