Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: Nature

This year's mental health awareness week has a focus on Nature.

During the last year this has had a particular significance with covid-19. The stay at home order only stopped on 9th March and many of the green spaces and parks in Sheffield were packed causing extra anxiety about the virus, or just too many people when we want to relax. Sheffield had one of the coldest Aprils in decades too which made our relationship with outdoors a bit more complicated.

During sessions over the years No Panic Sheffield has often talked about exercise and nature. The restorative effects of birdsong, trees and water are well known and the positive effects can last for some hours afterwards. Members have often categorised it as peace and quiet, endorphins and a mental break with a change of scenery. Exercise can be a great thing for mental health but it gets quite a bad press. Endorphins are quite short lived, as is the reward neurotransmitter dopamine, however research over the years has focussed on other things such as Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is associated with moderate exercise and if done regularly over 6-9 months has a positive effect on mood. We're all talked to other people where they tell us that exercise is the key, it's not going to sort out anxiety, but it can have a fairly positive effect, something which people probably appreciate a bit more the last year.

Sheffield has many great parks such as Bolehills, Graves, Millhouses, Endcliffe and Norfolk Parks along with many more. We're also situated near the peak disctict national park. As covid restrictions have eased, be kind to yourself, make time and if possible get out to enjoy nature at your own pace. Parks have largely emptied the last few weeks which should make things slightly easier.