Nature and mental health 

Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.

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

We all have different experiences of nature, and different reasons for wanting to connect with it more – or maybe we feel unsure about whether to try. You might find you get something completely different from one activity compared to someone else.

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. (The Carry on Gardening and Thrive websites have information to help you get started.)

  • Grow food together 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 information).

  • Go fruit picking. Look for local farms or orchards that let you pick fruit to buy. You might also 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, tree bark or seeds – use them to decorate your living space or in art projects.

  • Arrange a comfortable space to sit, for example by a window where you can look out over a view of trees or the sky.

  • 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 on your walls.

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