Let the outside in
By Rosabel Fowkes
Will the water be cold? What’s underneath? Will I be able to keep afloat? What will I look like? How far out will I be able to swim? What if I can’t? But what if I can…
Welcome to an anxious mind.
One in four adults like me will be affected by a mental health problem every year in the UK. This statistic is often quoted when talking about mental health and mental illness, which have – rightly so – become a more prominent issue in recent years. As fantastic as the increase in awareness is, there also needs to be consistency from professionals in implementing help for those who need it.
Various studies have examined the connection between nature and our well-being, and how they’re intrinsically linked. It is something that has also been recognised by the government in the 25 Year Environment Plan: “Spending time in the natural environment – as a resident or a visitor – improves our mental health and feelings of wellbeing. It can combat loneliness and bind communities together.”
The benefits we get from nature are very much down to us as individuals. Nature won’t miraculously turn you into a smiling Cheshire cat who’s jolly all the time (although I’ve found it definitely puts a smile on my face more times than not), but it helps in whatever form that may be.
The benefits of nature are clear. Now, where to go and reap them? The idea that we need to go on a huge expedition – scale a mountain with spectacular views in thirty seconds (not a building in sight) then top it off with a bungee jump just for fun – isn’t a prerequisite or necessary. Noticing what’s around you can be all it takes: the sunlight on the pavement, the sound of the wind moving through the trees, or how it feels to have ten minutes fresh air during your lunch break, are all catalysts that can help bring us into the moment.
You can feel calm, stressed, angry, cheerful, agitated, or downright awful. You can saunter up a hill, the sun shining and waltz around when you reach the top à la ‘The Sound of Music’, or you can be in bed, not wanting to face the day; but open the window just a crack and let the outside in.
There’s very much a desire nowadays for us to compare ourselves to each other or to feel uneasy that our ways of getting to where we want to be aren’t big enough. In society there’s pressure to have more, want more, be more. How about just ‘being’?
Let’s not underestimate the healing effect that being in nature can have on our lives, physically, psychologically and socially – I think it lets you be yourself. Nature never asks for anything in return, apart from perhaps to look after it the way we should all look after each other: with kindness, compassion and respect.
Swimming: a poem
I dip my toes in tentatively
Acclimatising to the temperature
Swirling my fingers in the silky water
Creating ripples all around me
Every step deeper and deeper
Slipping and sliding on the smooth rocks underneath
Three, two, one
Launching myself into the unknown, but somehow l know I’ll be safe
The water keeps me buoyant
My body feels soft and secure in this underwater world
My friend says one of her favourite sounds is the breeze delicately winding its way through the island trees
I have to agree
Frustration rises that I can’t do breast-stroke the ‘normal way’
The energy it takes for me to keep my head above the water –
The shapes one of my hands and legs make
The feelings of vulnerability and sadness I can’t quite shake
Then, water casts its magic – like it does every time, reminding me to celebrate
What my body can do, what I can feel instead of what I can’t
Calm and acceptance will grow with time,
But I know that it’s okay and understandable to feel down and uneasy about it too
I roll on my back like a sea otter
Gaze up at the sky, the clouds passing by
Being here in the water makes me feel free
Being here in the water brings me back to me
Rosa is currently taking part in ‘RED January’, a campaign run by the mental health organisation, Mind, to encourage people to exercise for 31 consecutive days throughout the month highlighting the positive effect being active has on our mental well-being.
To sponsor Rosa and support her great efforts visit her JustGiving Page HERE.