Debt advice centre: Using nature to boost mental health in difficult times

To ensure that the RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve is protected for generations to enjoy, the ci

RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve - Credit: Land & Water

In his latest column, Miles Picknell, manager of the Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre in Upminster, on taking care of your mental health and spending time outdoors.

Last month marked Mental Health Awareness Week from May 10 to 16.

As we recover from the pandemic, during which so many people have faced emotional challenges, mental health awareness seems incredibly pertinent.

It may be that you’ve personally experienced challenges with your own mental health over the last year, or you may know family, friends or colleagues who have been struggling.

At Christians Against Poverty (CAP), many of our clients come to us with a variety of struggles.

This ranges from needing debt help to support with finding a new job or budgeting advice.

Often, through getting CAP’s help, people report an improvement in their mental health and a reduction in stress or anxiety.

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With the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week being nature and the environment, we’ve put together some tips to help you make the most of the early summer outdoors.

Grab every opportunity that you can to get outside

Advice from the NHS and mental health charity Mind says that there are health-boosting effects of spending time outdoors, being close to nature and having a chance to breathe fresh air.

According to Mind, it improves your mood and reduces feelings of stress and anger. Plus, it can increase your energy levels.

If getting close to nature means you have to travel a bit further afield, get yourself a packed lunch, take a bottle of water or a flask of tea, and head out for a walk to your nearest green space to enjoy a cheap and cheerful day out.

Both the NHS and Mind websites have tons of great ideas for getting off the sofa, exercising and enjoying the health benefits of the outdoors.

Find out more at nhs.uk and mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living.

Spend time in the garden

Even if you don’t have a very big garden, spending time outdoors can be beneficial. Now that the pandemic-related restrictions are being eased, seeing people outside can be a great way to elevate your mood.

Gardening can also promote positive feelings as you nurture new life through whatever you plant.

It’s a great way to grow a bit of extra food too, such as potatoes and strawberries. These do well in containers, so you don’t even need much space – which is great news if you live in an apartment and only have a balcony or window ledge.

For ideas of some of the best vegetables to grow in pots, see balconygardenweb.com. Check out growlikegrandad.co.uk, a blog written by an anxiety sufferer who has experienced the great benefits of gardening.

He posts some great tips for gardening on a budget too.

Get the kids involved 

You’ll find lots of resources online to encourage the kids to get outdoors, gain a sense of achievement and boost their mental wellbeing.

Check out childrensgardeningweek.co.uk and make the most of National Children’s Gardening Week this week, until June 6.

Seek help with problem finances

At CAP, we know all too well the link between financial struggles and mental ill-health.

If you have money worries, seek help sooner rather than later. There are lots of free debt counselling charities that can help.

Just taking this first step can feel like a weight has been lifted.

Have a look at Money Saving Expert for advice.

  • Anyone struggling with debt can call Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre's new enquiries line on 0800 328 0006 or visit www.capuk.org/debthelp to find out more.

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