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Mental health   |   Nature

How to connect with nature­­ without a garden 

Recent research shows that even small contacts with nature can improve our mental health, especially if you have outdoor space of your own. But with around 13 per cent of UK households having no access to a garden, and experiencing greater mental health challenges as a result during the pandemic, finding ways to connect with nature can massively help wellbeing.  

Invite the outdoors in 

  • Plants you can grow indoors give a surprising amount back for relatively little effort. For general indoor plant inspiration check out @urbanjungleblog on Instagram for mind bogglingly gorgeous ways to green up any space. 
  • Try growing edible flowers or nutritious ‘microgreens’ as a delicious addition to salads. Teeny Greeny has organic microfarm growing kits to get you started.  
  • Lose yourself in the mini world of terrariums – this Gardens Illustrated roundup of terrariums gives you a good overview of all the different types, but you can also make them cheaply and easily from kilner jars as shown in an easy tutorial by Chalk & Moss. They are a great project for children too:  a low maintenance, creative green space for them to make and enjoy.  

Indoor garden
Houseplants bring greenery inside for those with limited outdoor space.

Welcome nature to your doorstep 

  • Window boxes can be really versatile and soothing to the senses. Try wildlife-friendly aromatic herbs like rosemary and thyme, grow chamomile and mint for fresh tasting herbal teas, or try plants such as lavender and geranium that give calming scent when you open your window.  
  • If you even have a tiny space next to your doorstep, you can make a ‘mini-meadow’ of wildflowers to attract bees. The Wildlife Trust has a great guide to introducing more biodiversity into small spaces using pots and containers, including how to make a ‘pond in a pot’ and a mini cornflower meadow. To find out how, click here.  
  • A nature table is not just for children, although they do love them and so enjoy the wonder of found treasures. Have a seasonal display of found natural objects that you can change throughout the year. From chic and sophisticated arrangements of branches, pebbles and feathers to lush vases of leaves, these forms introduce calming outdoor elements into the home.  
  • Not sure what to look for in nature? Learn with your kids by using The National Trust’s free Wildlife Spotter sheets, while their website has lots of info on where to walk.  

Enjoy new outdoor spaces and places  

  • For hands-on activities that are great exercise too, join in with conservation and tree planting sessions near you. Try The Conservation Volunteers. Naturevolunteers.uk, and inner city groups such as Wild London and Trees for Cities.
  • Get growing as part of UK-wide city farms, allotments and community gardens. Farmgarden.org.uk has a comprehensive directory, with something for everyone. 
  • If it feels intimidating to go out walking solo, or you just fancy meeting new folks, connect with others through organisations such as The Ramblers (who have groups countrywide for all ages, including ones just for younger hikers over 20), Walking for Health, or Disabled Ramblers
  • Prefer time to yourself and some headspace? A spot of mindful walking (a form of movement meditation) can help clear your mind and reduce stress.  
  • Connecting to nature feels good and does you good. Whether that is just noticing the clouds, being barefoot in the park, or taking a quiet moment sat on a bench by your favourite tree, find whatever way works best for you to incorporate it into your day and feel the benefits.  

If you are experiencing mental health issues and need advice or support, helpful resources to explore are Mind, Rethink and the Mental Health Foundation.  

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