Can nature play a role in helping people with mental health issues?

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Can nature play a role in helping people with mental health issues?

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Mental health issues today are on the rise? It may be due to access to vast information or awareness that has led to an acknowledgement of mental illness today than in the olden days. It may also be due to being the digital age where we communicate on social media and not in person. Where our conversations are built on who has what depending on what we see every day online. We rarely talk to each other but at each other. We have become non-listeners and assume everyone has a not so easy life and thus we should all not be bewildered by the circumstances of it.

However, we forget that mental illness, which is slowly but surely getting the attention it needs through media where even public figures have come out to state their concerns, is an illness, not easily seen and needs to be addressed. With many people today choosing to end their life especially young people, mental illness is not an illness we should be ashamed of.

Many people fight mental illness thinking it shall pass. However, the key is to accept it as soon as possible and get help. There is no need to feel like you are not normal. This is just as normal as it can be. There are so many negative stereotypical comments towards mental illness that limit the chances of anyone getting help. One may feel out of place, abnormal in a way, but with awareness creation on mental issues, we can create helpful outcomes to encourage people to speak out.

I was once told that as a person who loves nature I should not be depressed or develop any mental health issues because nature heals. However, we forget that you can be in nature and not be present at that particular moment. There is a difference between being in the stillness of nature and being in a crowd in nature taking selfies and tweeting or Instagramming about it. Nature, however, can be a coping mechanism, a sort of therapy and not the medication.

You have been able to go through and survive the worst cases of depression, anxiety and any other mental illness. The days now have a little more sunshine than they used to. Life seems to follow smoothly and what bothered you in the past is no longer of concern. However, life is interesting. Just when you think everything is going to work out, the storm appears. There is a higher percentage of sinking back into depression and anxiety if you have experienced it before. Not all is lost though. You don’t have to sink back deeply, in fact, there is no need of thinking about it. The best way I have been able to avoid internal dark storms, otherwise known as depression, is developing psychological coping mechanisms that help the process. It’s all in the mind, the one you are always battling with.

Nature is an amazing coping mechanism. When you are in the stillness of the vast cycles of life that exist in a natural landscape there is the acknowledgement that you are not alone and there is something bigger than you. This may seem out of place and condescending, but this will be overthinking everything.  Nature is constant. Consistent in a way that people definitely are not. It provides a world wherein that particular moment of stillness you forget about your issues. It provides a state of mind of stillness where you can become one with nature even for just that one moment. Your mind becomes still and starts to level everything without being in a cloudy mess. It provides a way to simple recognised there is a world bigger than you and what you thought was a big mess in your life isn’t anymore. With any nature experience, choose to connect, take notice, give, be active and learn. These are the common five ways to mental well begin which you can use when nature becomes therapy.

P.S. I’m not a psychologist. I’m just a human hoping to be of help to someone. When all else fails, get professional help and still consider nature as part of therapy. No technology when you are in the zone though.

Featured image: Lesser Kudu © Masaki Kuroki

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Share The Wild Side
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to vicki@nyikasilika.org or vickiwangui26@gmail.com.

1 Comment

  1. […] Habitat destruction is mainly as a result of land use change, such as agriculture, and economic development. These are challenges that can be solved. Land use change can be a shift from livestock keeping to farming, converting a wildlife area into a farm, and even logging. Economic development includes settlements, urbanization such as skyscrapers, roads, railways and ports. Involving all stakeholders, whether, in economics, engineering, agriculture, architecture, environmental conservation research and others, we can build ideas towards sustainable use of land and development considering the environmental implications. Maintaining wildlife habitats does not mean being against any economic change. It is all about creating a win-win situation for the planet. As the human race, our advantage is the ability to reason. With this, instead of actively destroying our planet, we can choose to create. We can choose to build roads that do not affect wildlife but consider their movement thus building overpasses and underpasses that will be used –  this is after carefully monitoring and researching on the species movement. We can choose to develop our towns in ways that will accommodate wildlife, remembering birds are part of the ecosystem and so are insects too. City planners need to have a green space mindset especially considering the psychological impact of wild areas to our well-being. […]

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