Mental Health and Nature
Leaving home for university and living independently for the first time, was both an exciting and daunting experience. Especially as someone who is not originally from Ipswich or Suffolk, and who had very little familiarity with the area beforehand. That was two and half years ago now, and as I approach the end of my studies, I would like to reflect on the important role nature has played in easing the transition. Particularly, how it has encouraged me to develop healthier coping mechanisms when it comes to feelings of anxiety and depression.
We live in an exceedingly digital world, dominated by screens.
Students especially seem to spend the majority of their time indoors in lessons, or on a computer doing assignments, and I’ve definitely felt the impact of this within my final year. As the assignments become bigger and the deadlines seemingly closer together, it’s easy to neglect taking care of yourself both mentally and physically during these times. It’s because of this, I’ve often been left feeling burned out as deadlines loomed and I exhausted myself to meet them.
However, to temporarily disconnect and recuperate, I regularly go on long walks, which help me to unwind and refocus my distracted mind.
During my first year, when I was still new to the area, I liked to explore and discovered some of the parks nearby my accommodation at the time. Even now, I might occasionally go to the park to feed the ducks when I’m feeling anxious, depressed, or if my mind feels a bit too chaotic to carry on with work. Being out in nature like this gives me time to reflect and be introspective, and instead of ignoring my own overall wellbeing to produce another assignment, I take the time to create a mental self-care checklist of the things I need to do that would improve my overall wellbeing.
On these walks, it’s nice to just enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, so that when I get home I am in a more collected state of mind to plan what I need to do next.
So, perhaps disconnecting isn’t the right word, as nature helps me to re-establish a connection between my mind and body, and to reconnect with the world outside of coursework.