Hi everyone! With the summer coming, going out and enjoying the sun looks more and more possible. Personally, I love the beginning of summer when it is still a little chilled. It is warm enough to be a welcomed change from winter without being too hot.
Walking outside can be a wonderful exercise for the body and mind, a way to take a break and enjoy nature. I have never been good at mindfulness. However, taking walks and exploring different environments have had a similar effect on my mental health. I am not an expert, so I can’t provide any advice. But I thought at this time, it would be interesting to share some experiences I had with nature and how they helped my mental health.
I have been lucky enough to have lived in several countries with different forms of nature. When I was little in Argentina, I lived next to a river. I remember walking to my neighbor’s house at night. As the river was so close, the humidity was high. The air felt cool and crisp. I could almost feel the next day’s dew. This area had no car access, so it was deadly quiet. I could hear the river and crickets. Sometimes, if I looked up paid attention, I could see bats and a monkey moving around in the dark. Although I was very little, and it should have been scary, it was very safe, and it truly helped clear my mind.
Many years later, I was living in a small town in Japan for my master’s degree. I was also living next to a river. Nature sounds here usually came from a group of cats living in the traditional house next door. I used to walk 20 minutes to a nearby supermarket for groceries. The trip was peaceful. I could hear some distant cars and cats running around. Sometimes, on my way back after a rain, I was gifted with frogs. My path happened to coincide with the return of a small army of frogs back to the river. They would jump around all in the same direction. I had never really experienced something like that. It was so amusing I would sometimes even talk to them. It felt as I was living in a children’s book. It was a wonderful way of disconnecting from all the work I had to do and just enjoying the world around me.
In the UK, I also had the chance to enjoy different environments. Most of them were in Reading. However, before the pandemic, I was able to travel a little. I remember going to Portsmouth to conduct research at an old military base. I went during winter, so the days were pretty short. I had to maximise my time there, so I would usually arrive and leave during the nighttime. This meant I always got to see the sunrise and sunset. The fort had a wandering fox. If they felt safe, they would come up and sometimes walk close by as I was entering or leaving. I know that foxes are a regular feature in the UK. However, to me, they are pretty rare. I used to play a game with myself to see if I could spot the fox that day. I still sometimes play this game in Reading too. As in Japan, although I was working very long days and completely exhausted, these small moments of nature, being able to breathe the crisp air and enjoy the cool dawn and dusk, made me feel truly alive and happy to be there.
These are some of my experiences. Although some of the times were not ideal, taking a moment to experience and appreciate all the odd and beautiful nature around me truly helped to centre me, making these treasured memories.
Resources for Mental Health Awareness Week:
- Support Services and Tools at the University of Reading
- UoR Guidance and Support
- Mental Health Awareness Week
- Student Wellness Check
- Blog Student Wellness Check
- Gardening at the University of Reading by Florencia Botta
- Home garden: Tips to keep in mind – Florencia Botta
- Blog: Walks at Whiteknights – Ducks, Photography and the Lake