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Mental health nature week 1: Green is a happy colour

Often when we are feeling down, a walk in the park, or a relax in the garden can help to brighten our mood, so much so that there is actually a field of science dedicated to exploring why.

The field of ecotherapy is attempting to develop scientific evidence to back up the long standing assumption that nature is physically good for us. Since the 1980s, there have been theories that our love for nature is rooted deep in our biology and genetics.

In 2016, professors at Harvard University confirmed the link between more green space and lower mortality rates. To relate back to some of my earlier posts, being in greenspaces can help to ground us, and bring us out of our anxious or depressive thought patterns and into the real, rational world.

Korea is developing a healing forests initiative, and Sweden virtual nature spaces are becoming widely prescribed. In the UK and more specifically in Sheffield there is the IWUN project (improving wellbeing through urban nature).

Academics and nature organisations are working together do develop an app, connecting city-dwellers and offering the chance to have a say in how their urban spaces are green-ified, and explore the connection between socioeconomic status and interaction with green space. The final aim of this is to develop a way to feed this knowledge into policy and avoid the continued destruction of green space in favour of urban developments.

The Landscape institute has recently released a position statement on the importance of ‘healthy places’ to public health. The document talks through the physical and mental healing powers of green (and blue!) space, as well as the opportunities it provides for social development. Urban areas with more green space have been shown to experience lower levels of antisocial behaviour, and more social interaction.

Through the month of April (in the couple of days of sun that are staring to squeeze through the cold) try to make it your goal to get outside at least once each day, spend some time outside and see if you can feel the benefits!

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Lizzy posts

Relationships Week 2: Romance and Mental Health

When they’re right and healthy, a romantic relationship can work wonders for our mental health. A recent study by Mind has revealed that one in five people believe that sharing their mental health issues has had a positive impact on their mental health.

But this relationship goes both ways as the same number of people believed that talking about their mental health actually made the relationship easier to manage.

47% of people said that dating someone who had openly discussed their mental health problem was not as daunting as they thought as someone’s mental health struggles do not define them.

The same study also revealed, however that mental health can put a strain on relationships due to financial and unemployment issues. These strains make it all the more important that we are open and honest with our partners about the state of our mental health as it can prepare for problems that may be around the corner.

Paying close attention to how we are communicating within a relationship can avoid the build up of anger, resentment or frustration within a relationship. For more detailed and professional guidance on the intricacies of navigating the mental health and relationships take a look at the charity Relate (link below). Their whole campaign is based around promoting health relationships as well as providing points of contact for a wide array of needs.

Issues with mental health can also impact the sexual aspect of relationships, again Relate covers this, with specific reference to LGBTQ+ relationships. Specific advice is important as the sexual side to relationships can differ widely across the relationship spectrum.

Lizzy posts

Relationships week 1: The importance of healthy relationships and knowing what they are.

Often subconsciously, we view ourselves through the eyes of the people we are closest to, whether that be through romance, friendship or a more professional connection. Our relationships make up a huge part of who we are and how we create our identities, we are the people that we surround ourselves with.

As humans we are made for connections, and to be part of a community but in today’s world we are more disconnected than ever before. A study has shown Britain to be the loneliest place in Europe, with more and more virtual friendships, and families living further and further apart from each other.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, relationships are the forgotten ingredient to a healthy mind, and can reduce risk of blood pressure as well as an array of mental health problems.

An important part of mental health maintenance is focusing in on our bodies and minds, but just as important is focusing on our external relationships. Making connections with the people around us also means that the people we are close to are better equipped to see a change in our behaviours where we may not be able to.

Working together as a community can make sure that nobody will have to suffer in silence, or feel isolated or lonely, and will in turn make us better prepared, and equipped with a support system, to focus on the other aspects of staying healthy.

Over the month of March we will be discussing an array of different relationships and their importance to our mental health. From professional, romantic, medial and friendship based. The power of a positive, empowering relationship cannot be underestimated.

Lizzy posts

Community and Kindness Week 3: Getting involved.

(Sorry this week’s post is slightly late!)

Just a quick, practical and to the point post this week. Over the last two weeks I’ve talked about the benefits of getting involved in the local community, or even volunteering on a personal level. So I thought this week it might be a good idea to actually provide you with some impressive local initiatives that you can join (I’ve done half the work already – so you have no excuse not to!).

The Sheffield Volunteer Centre on Rockingham Street has a drop-in face to face service able to provide advice to people who are interested in volunteering. You can also create your own profile which organisations can then view if they are looking for someone.

Link: http://www.sheffieldvolunteercentre.org.uk/start-volunteering

Going more down the community route, something I found really interesting was the Terminus initiative. Since 2002 the initiative runs events promoting better health & wellbeing for the local community in Lowedges, Batemoor & Jordanthorpe. Currently runs Community Food Growing Project, community lunches (including cooking), boxing club, children’s activities, information about local courses and other events. Previous groups have included dance classes, mental wellbeing sessions.

This could be the sort of place you contact to volunteer, but also to attend and make use of the events and activities.

Link: https://www.facebook.com/TheTerminusInitiative/

For any students at the University of Sheffield looking to get into volunteering, the Sheffield University Volunteering Centre is a great source of information (it’s actually how I ended up writing these posts). You create a profile and list your preferences and will get weekly email updates. Some opportunities are just one offs, others are weekly, semipermanent or permanent positions.

Link: https://www.sheffieldvolunteering.com/

I hope these links give you a good starting point to get involved in your local community. Talking from experience – you won’t ever look back. Its a rewarding and highly educational experience. If you have any of your own volunteering experiences or resources, please comment or share below.

Lizzy posts

Community and Kindness Week 2: Be selfish, and be nice!

When we are feeling unwell, or have a lot of troubling, stressful or upsetting thoughts running through our heads non-stop, thinking of others is often the last thing on our minds. Surprisingly, though, my research seems to show that in caring for others we are actually keeping our own mental, and even physical health in check.

 

The most unapologetically selfish reason to help others is pretty obvious, but worth highlighting – distraction! Putting your energy into somebody else’s problems is a great way to take a break from your own, and may even help you to rationalise them by providing another perspective.

 

To get a little more technical, helping others releases endorphins in the brain that are associated with happiness, which leads to a prolonged sense of calm. It is also proven to lead to a more active lifestyle.

 

Getting involved in your community, on however large or small a scale, can help reduce your own feelings of isolation and increase a sense of belonging. When we aren’t feeling well it’s easy to slip into patterns of self-isolation but committing to helping out, whether it be just one friend or through volunteering, is a way of forcing yourself out of the house.

 

Make your aim for this week making a connection with someone who could use your help, whether it be a friend, family member, charity, or whatever! Make it something or someone you enjoy and turn your negative thoughts into positive action.

 

Jack posts

Zine making at Rainbow Heron Cafe

January’s Night Café took place on Sunday 28th at the Wellbeing Centre, with people gathering to make zines or chat and play games. Visiting artist/ workshop leader Chella Quint talked us through zine-making- folding up a piece of paper into eighths and cutting a hole in it, then folding the edges through the middle to make a book or magazine shape. It takes a couple of attempts, but looks impressive once it’s done, with six internal pages between the front and back covers.

The idea of the zines is to write down things to remember or tips to help yourself through day to day life; it can be something serious, like six things to be proud of, or ways to look after yourself, or something as light-hearted as six favourite bands, or most satisfying household chores. Pictures are optional.

Although it’s not necessary for anyone apart from the makers to see these handbooks, DIY self-publication is a medium long associated with political resistance and artistic movements; after printing was invented, political and religious figures of the day would use printed pamphlets to spread their ideas. From the 1930s to 1960s, science fiction enthusiasts began to produce fan magazines, later abbreviated to zines, featuring their own original work and later, the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s used them as a means to write about feminist themes. In this context, they are meant as a means to remember good moments, and cope with difficult ones.

Lizzy posts

Community and Kindness Week 1: Community and Public Mental Health

I remember studying the history of public health in the UK during school, but until I read Mind.org’s publication calling for the development of a public mental health system, I hadn’t ever really given much thought to how the community that we live in (extended beyond our nearest and dearest) has so much power over our mental health.

 

The community level is a fantastic way to address and improve mental health. It is a way practically grouping people together and measuring statistics and who is most at risk, but it also forms a natural support system and gives way to support groups and improved awareness.

 

Mind.org’s work draws attention to the need to develop preventative techniques on a universal level to improve public mental health, but also says how important it is that those at high-risk within a community are identified.

 

Whatever technique is being used, it is also important that community data is used to tailor it to specific needs. Examples of this would be initiatives tailored to targeting BAME or LGBT+ members of a society with preventative and detective techniques to address public mental health.

 

As well as the personal, family, and workplace level, the community level is one which deserves strong consideration when it comes to public mental health. Community cohesion is a great way to measure wider and interrelated influences on mental health.

 

In this month where we are focusing on Community and Kindness, task yourself with venturing out into your local community and seeing what sort of support is on offer, whether you may need some, or be able to give some. If you don’t think there is enough, see what you can do to get involved and raise awareness!

 

My favourite initiative that I came across was the use of Community Navigators to support  those at high-risk of mental health issues due to social isolation. If you like the idea as much as me, see where you can get involved in a scheme such as this and join the Public Mental Health Revolution!