Nature and mental health 

Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. Research into ecotherapy (a type of treatment which involves activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. The combination of regular physical activity and social contact plus being outside in nature is said to help.

Being outside in natural light can be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year. People tell us that nature has helped them with so many other mental health problems.

What nature ideas could I try?

We'd highly recommend signing up for one of our ecotherapy courses such as Growing Wellbeing or Plot to Plate, but if for whatever reason that's not possible, here are some alternative ways to connect with nature. 

Grow or pick food

  • Create a growing space. If you don't have access to a garden, you could plant salad leaves or herbs in a window box or plant pot.

  • Plant vegetables in your garden. Thrive website has information to help you get started.

  • Grow food with others. Apply to share an allotment, or look for community gardens or food growing projects in your local area (See the National Allotment Society and Social Farms & Gardens websites for more info).

  • Go fruit picking. Look for local farms or orchards that let you pick fruit to buy. You can easily find fruit growing in urban spaces, for example wild blackberries.

  • Learn to find edible plants, also known as food foraging. You could see if a foraging group meets in your local area. (The Woodland Trust website has more information on foraging.)

Bring nature inside

  • Buy flowers or potted plants for your home.

  • Collect natural materials, for example leaves, flowers, feathers, pebbles, or tree bark – use them to decorate your living space or in art projects.

  • Arrange a comfy space to sit. By a window where you can look out over a view of trees or the sky is an ideal spot.

  • Grow plants or flowers on windowsills. (See the Royal Horticultural Society website for tips on planting seeds indoors.)

  • Take photos of your favourite places in nature. Use them as backgrounds on a mobile phone or computer screen, or print and put them up.

  • Listen to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall.