Scenic fall view of lakes and trees with changing colours

Add nature to your self-care toolkit

As the days get shorter and the colder weather arrives, it’s time to talk self-care.  Bubble baths and meditation are great options, but have you considered adding nature to your self-care toolkit?

October 10 is World Mental Health Day, and it’s the perfect time to think of ways we can take care of ourselves and our families.

Nature: now more than ever

2021 has been a bit of a challenge. An optimist might call it an “opportunity,” and point to the resiliency, community (from a distance), and innovation that we have created and discovered over the past seven months.

A realist (pessimist?) might decree that this year has been a really tough slog.

So what can we do about it?

Firstly, we can prioritize our physical health.

This means doing all of those common-sense things to take care of ourselves and each other. Following public health guidance, getting regular exercise and sleep, and eating well.

Two hikers walking through the woods in the autumn

Equally important is preserving our mental health.

This will mean something different for each of us. And it’s a good idea to make a plan that will work best for you and keep it realistic and manageable.

This year, more than ever, we can rely on nature to offer us some self-care solutions.

Nature is good for your body and brain

Research that shows even 20 minutes a day in nature can make a big difference to our health and well-being.

Couple sitting in bench in forest with cedar trees

Some of the mental health benefits of spending regular time in nature include:

  • lowered anxiety
  • decreased stress
  • improved focus
  • better sleep
  • improved mood

Sounds good right? So how can we prioritize spending time in nature when life gets busy?

Top tips for your toolkit

The World Health Organization (WHO) has great tips for ways we can look after our own mental health, and help others who may need extra support and care.

Some guidance includes:

Have a routine and make time for things you enjoy 

Building nature in to your routine and blocking off time to get outside is a great first step!

Senior citizens sitting in wooden chairs holding hands overlooking fall view with lake and cliffs

Add a “nature appointment” to your daily or weekly calendar. It can be active (like a socially distanced walk with a friend) or relaxing (like making time to sit outside where you can observe the sights and sounds of nature and decompress).

Exercise regularly

Fall is a great time to exercise outdoors. The air is crisp and cool, and it’s fun to watch the change in seasons.

Two cyclists mountain biking through a forest

Plan a weekend hike or bike ride, pick up the pace on your dog walk, and explore nature where you can – whether it’s an urban green space, a conservation area, or one of our beautiful provincial parks.

Be aware of screen time

Most of us spend more than 90% of each day inside – and a lot of that is on screens. Some of it can’t be helped when working or learning from home.  But being aware of how long you are staring at a screen is helpful.

Creek with rocks and rushing water

Taking regular breaks is important and can be even more beneficial if you can take a short break in nature.

If you can’t get outside, that’s okay. Research shows that even listening to the sounds of nature can relax and restore us. So cue up a playlist that features bird song, a breeze in the trees, or the sounds of rushing water, and close your eyes and chill out!

Mental health is essential

Good mental health is essential all the time – and its importance is highlighted even more this year.

We are becoming increasingly aware of the financial and social costs of poor mental health. For example, the global economy loses about one trillion US dollars per year in productivity due to depression and anxiety.

Healthy Parks Healthy People is here for you!

Ontario’s Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative recognizes that spending time in nature can help reduce the risks of mental health challenges.

We are proud to be part of this movement, and to celebrate World Mental Health Day.  It’s our goal to improve the health and wellness of Ontarians by connecting them to nature.

Learn more about how great nature is for our bodies and minds on the Healthy Parks Healthy people webpage.

If you’re getting outside this fall, tag us in your photos using #HPHP!  We’d love to hear about how you’re using nature to keep happy and healthy!