A-Z of Wellbeing
As we enter a new year, we have been faced with challenges and stresses that have spilled over from 2020; focusing on helping your mental health and wellbeing is vital, now more than ever. Connecting and immersing yourself in nature is said, by researchers, to be a great remedy for helping relieve stress and reduce anxiety, and that is why we have decided to put together a light-spirited A-Z of how you can help your wellbeing through the power of nature. Every Wednesday we will provide you with a new letter from the alphabet, giving you a suggestion of something you can do whilst you are out in nature or one of the benefits of spending time outdoors through our #WellnessWednesday.
A is for Art
Art is defined as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Creating visual art is said by researchers to help reduce stress and promote relaxation; this is why as our first letter for our A-Z of wellbeing we focused on Art. During these stressful times you can utilise art as a form of releasing stress and anxiety that you may have; you could perhaps use your daily exercise out in nature as an inspiration and a basis for your art piece; capturing the colours, textures, sights and movement you may see. Research and explore other artists’ work to see what styles you prefer and to broaden your horizons with how other people define art. Art can be what you make it, so do not feel overwhelmed if you have never picked up a paint brush before. Instead, you could use items you have collected from your walks out in nature, to make a collage, or you could even borrow your own children’s colouring crayons to explore what makes you happy.
B is for Birdwatching
B is for Birdwatching – Birdwatching or birding, is the recreational activity of observing birds in their natural habitat. Spending time in nature is said, by scientists, to have many positive influences on our mental health and emotional wellbeing and birding is one of many outdoor activities believed to be helpful in practicing mindfulness. This concept is discussed and portrayed by our good friend, writer and public speaker, Joe Harkness in his book ‘Bird Therapy’. Joe describes how this meditative interest in birding helped bolster and support his mental health and emotional wellbeing after struggling with his own mental health. He discusses how taking ourselves away from the hustle and bustle of the modern digital world is crucial to our mental state and taking part in activities such as birdwatching can help us all; especially in a climate such as this. You do not need to know anything about bird identification to enjoy birdwatching. Just listening to their calls and watching them fly can be very soothing and it won’t be long before you start to notice the differences between species.
C is for Cycling
Exercising is a great way of helping both our mental and physical health, as it is said by scientists to release serotonin; a hormone known as a natural mood stabilizer. Exercising outdoors can be a very powerful antidote to reducing stress and anxiety, giving you an opportunity to connect with nature whilst reaping the benefits for your overall health. We are able to enjoy nature in many different forms and through many different means, whether it be a gentle stroll, jog or cycle. If you have exhausted your daily walks, perhaps you can mix it up with a cycle around your local park or area. Regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It’s also a great way to take in your surroundings, listen to the sounds of nature that surround you, and feel the fresh air on your face. If you’re a keen cyclist we’d love you to share with us how cycling makes you feel…
D is for Discover
A common definition of ‘Discover’ is: ‘to find information, a place, or an object, especially for the first time’. Discovering something new or different seems very appropriate, particularly during these stressful times.
Nature is abundant with ecosystems and species relevant to certain habitats, wherever we go. Whilst we may find ourselves getting a little anxious at home, you could use this time as a perfect opportunity for you to discover your local area and the wildlife it attracts. Whether it be in your garden, local park, or river; look around and see what you can discover – hopefully you’ll find some amazing ecosystems and species that you may never have noticed before.
This time of year is perfect to spot birds up in the trees; primroses and snowdrops are starting to appear and the first signs of spring are just around the corner.
E is for Exercise
This week for our A-Z of Wellbeing for Wellness Wednesday we focus on E is for exercise. Exercise is known to be one of the most beneficial remedies for both our physical and mental health, with the NHS recommending we do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity a week.
Whilst gyms and swimming pools remain closed, due to government guidelines, we can take this opportunity to enjoy your favourite exercise in outdoor green spaces. When the sun is shining perhaps you could try an online workout out in the garden or take a jog around your local park or woodland.
F is for Forest bathing
Forest bathing is a Japanese meditative practice founded within the 1980s. It is a practice of being calm and quiet within a woodland atmosphere, whilst observing nature and focusing on your breathing. Forest bathing is believed to help boost our health and wellbeing, as well as reducing stress; it offers us an opportunity to escape from our computer and TV screens, which have undoubtedly been a focal distraction for many of us during this lockdown.
Using all of your senses perhaps think about how the woodland makes you feel? Practice your observation skills and look at nature’s finest details; observe the tree trunks and the branches and see how they differ from each other.
Why not turn your mobile phone onto silent mode and pick a time of day where the woodland will be a little less busy, to get the best chance of exploring the sights and sounds of a woodland area?
G is for Geocaching
If you haven’t already heard of this unique outdoor activity, geocaching is a treasure hunt inspired activity using a GPS device or smartphone. This outdoor treasure hunt requires you to seek out as many ‘caches’ (hidden treasures) as you can find in differing locations, whilst using coordinates given on geocaching.com. It is a perfect opportunity for the whole family to get out into the fresh air and venture out to new places, as well as exercising your observation skills.
Geocaches come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are really easy to find and others are more challenging. It is a worldwide activity, with millions of caches secretly hidden all over the world and gives going for a walk a sense of purpose. There’s likely to be one very close to you right now! You get to discover new areas and places you wouldn’t know existed, whilst keeping your brain active. We highly recommend you try it!
H is for Hiking
As the sun starts to appear and the days become a littler warmer, a hike outdoors becomes that little more appealing. Hiking outdoors has lots of perks; especially in springtime, when flowers start to bloom, the sound of birds singing throughout the day and the sun beating down. In addition to these particular perks, hiking is also known to be packed with a number of health benefits: it is known to reduce heart disease, help maintain or lose weight and improve our blood pressure and glucose levels, so why not put on those walking boots or trainers and discover a local spectacular hiking path.
At Pensthorpe we have a number of routes and hiking paths for you to discover, which we can’t wait for you to reconnect with once we are able to welcome back our visitors and Annual Members. For those of you living in Norfolk there are so many delightful routes for you to discover! You can find them here.
I is for Insect spotting
“An understanding of the natural world is a source of not only great curiosity, but great fulfilment.” (Sir David Attenborough)
This week for our A-Z of Wellbeing we focus on ‘I is for insect spotting’. Despite their small size, insects form the basis of most food chains, and play big roles in ecological processes which us humans depend on. Learning to appreciate the smallest of creatures gives us a sense of place and belonging in the world. We can learn to appreciate the intricacies of each species, which allows us to become fascinated with the wonder of the natural world through activities such as insect spotting.
Inspect spotting is a wonderful activity to do with the whole family, and can be done easily and safely from the comfort of your own garden. It familiarises you with the incredible wildlife that surround you, and helps you get even closer to nature. To get even closer to nature, you could invest in a magnifying glass or magnifier to help identify insects more easily.
J is for Journaling
For this week’s A-Z of Wellbeing our focus is on J is for Journaling. Journaling has grown to become increasingly popular over the years and has been said to be one of many great practices that can help us manage our mental health; jotting down our daily thoughts and feelings is a relaxing and de-stressing technique for us to manage our habits and behaviours.
You can journal at any time of the day and anywhere; for some of us, sitting outdoors within nature helps many of us feel relaxed, allowing our thoughts and feelings to flow a little more easily; so perhaps pick your favourite spot within nature, whether it be within the comfort of your own garden, a spot within a local park or garden, grab your notepad and pen, and jot down your daily thoughts.
K is for Knitting
Knitting is an activity which has been around for many centuries, and with its repetitive movement induces a state of mindfulness allowing us to carefully switch off from daily stresses and worries. It may be an activity that you have recently learned as a new skill during lockdown therefore choosing a simple pattern to follow can help us to relax and unwind, whilst those who are more familiar with knitting may prefer to choose a more complex pattern to unlock a sense of flow and achievement. There’s a lot of knitting patterns available online, including ones that show you how to knit your favourite wildlife species!
You could even take your knitting needles outside with you in the garden and enjoy the sights, sounds and aromas of nature as you calmly knit away!
L is for Letter writing
Writing a letter was a common communication practise many years ago; however with the rise of all things digital and access to instant communication platforms, this beautiful art form has unfortunately slowly become a thing of the past for many of us.
Letter writing was a great way of forming and maintaining a bond with friends and loved ones who we might have lived a great distance away from, and putting pen to paper or awaiting a letter may have seemed that little more exciting than sending multiple instant messages as many of us do today.
As we similarly mentioned in our entry for J is for Journaling, letter writing to ourselves, or to a friend or loved one, is believed to help us manage our emotions and thoughts, having a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
M is for Meditation
Meditation; a practise that goes back many years and has now become increasingly popular amongst today’s society for managing stress and anxiety. Meditating within nature can be a phenomenal sensory experience for many of us, giving us a sense of freedom and a stronger connection to our Earth. The outdoors provides us with an enhanced meditation experience simply by pausing and taking in the endless sounds of the wilderness that can stimulate our senses and relax us.
N is for Natural Play
We are all very aware that children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, for various reasons to do with modern living and new technology. Natural, outdoor play environments help ignite and rebuild this connection with nature, allowing children to experience the freedom of their own creativity and abilities, whilst appreciating the serene backdrop of nature. As well as aiding the exercise of a child’s imagination, natural play equipment helps support sensory stimulation and movement for children of all ages, critical in their early years. It is also known and proven that natural play increases positive mental health and wellbeing in children.
We have always been strong advocates of encouraging a reconnection with nature and championing positive mental health and wellbeing. That is why, when you visit us this year, you will stumble across some NEW natural play elements as you explore our reserve. So get exploring and let the creativity flow!
O is for Offline
This week our A-Z of Wellbeing looks at an alternative activity for helping our wellbeing…this focuses on ‘O’ is for Offline. It is suggested that by coming offline for a period of time in the day or week can significantly help our mental and physical wellbeing. This ‘detox’ away from digital devices can help us appreciate and focus on real life interactions such as spending time outdoors connecting with nature or enjoying the presence of our family and friends.
When you visit us at Pensthorpe, we very much believe in leaving your digital devices behind and enjoy spending time out within nature. Our interactive, traditional activities encourage families to engage with each other, as well as sparking a nostalgia amongst adults.
P is for Painting
According to Harvard Medical School: “Creative activities can relieve stress, aid communication, and help arrest cognitive decline”. Finding an emotional release like painting allows our minds to relax and let go of all the problems that contribute to high stress levels built up over the day and week.
Whilst painting alone provides a relaxing environment to explore one’s own creativity, wildlife painting is a great way of reaping the benefits of getting outdoors in the fresh air as well as exercising your creativity skills.
We have been lucky to have local wildlife artists such as Bob Crook and north Norfolk based BIRDscape Gallery exhibit their work at Pensthorpe. There are lots of amazing wildlife artists that we welcome here in our gift shop and to visit Pensthorpe to gain inspiration for their own work.
Q is for Quiet
Many of us lead a busy lifestyle quickly dashing from A to B, that is why tuning off from our digital devices for at least an hour a day and stepping outdoors has been said to drastically improve our mental and physical wellbeing.
Step outdoors and enjoy the tranquillity founded out in your nearby green space; listen to the sweet symphony of birds singing or the leaves as they move swiftly in the wind.
At Pensthorpe, there are an abundance of different spots that offer a peaceful stop for you to enjoy the wonderful sights and sounds of nature; a stop in our Millennium Garden or perhaps at one of our multiple hides offers you a place to achieve a state of mindfulness.