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Green health & mental health

As I write this, I'm looking forward to an exciting week. Green Health Week starts on Saturday 8th May followed by Mental Health Awareness Week on Monday 10th which has nature as its theme for 2021.

It's no coincidence that the Mental Health Foundation have chosen nature as their theme this year. Over the last year, nature has become part of our modern lives more than ever before. Of course humans do have an innate tendency to seek connection to nature - for most of human history, we lived as part of nature. It's only in modern times that we have become separated from it. As more research is done into nature connectedness, the more it becomes evident that being connected to nature is beneficial to your mental health (as well as to the health of the earth). Find out more about why they're focusing on nature here.

Nature Scot developed Green Health Week as a way to promote the role of connecting people & nature to help improve health and wellbeing, making the most of the outdoors as Our Natural Health Service. Nature helps us cope with life’s ups and downs. Finding a tranquil spot outside to enjoy some peace and quiet is something that many of us have benefited from over the last year. Of course it's not just your mental health that can benefit from being outside. Being active in the outdoors can improve the quality of life for you and your family.

Our theme for Green Health Week is the Green Elf Code. Remember the Green Cross Code? Well the Green Elf Code is similar. All you need to do is: stop; look; listen. Although it's ideal to follow the Green Elf Code outside, it's something you can also do indoors. Stop. Look. Listen. Right now, I can see the very top of a tree that until a week or so ago was just a bare branch but is now a riot of bright green leaves, after a day of rain, hail and snow, I can see a vibrant patch of blue sky, and I can hear a blackbird who is nesting in next door's garden and who seems to sing merrily all day and a lot of the night too. It's a prompt to use your senses - don't forget about touch, smell and taste, and stay in the present moment to notice what is around you.

There is research to show that looking for 3 good things in nature every day helps build your connection with nature. It's a practice that I have taken on this year, and so far I've only missed one day. It helps me to focus on what is around me when I am outside, to talk about what I am noticing with my partner, and then to re-live it at the end of the day when I write it down. Why not try it out this week? We'd love to hear what you have been noticing in nature - and you can tell us on our website. If you'd rather keep it to yourself, why not print out our 3 good things diary page, and write them down? And whilst I am extremely keen on the resources that we have developed (a sensory scavenger hunt anyone?), it would be remiss of me not to mention the amazingly beautiful documents on the Mental Health Foundation website - from their top tips on connecting with nature to a downloadable nature journal with writing prompts and space to doodle what you've seen.

Finally there are a couple of events coming up that might be of interest. On Thursday 13th May at 7.00pm Martin Stepek, one of Scotland’s foremost teachers of Mindfulness, is running a session on Mindfulness & Nature. He will suggest ways to be mindful outdoors to benefit your mental health not only in times of stress but as an ongoing way to be happier and more content. The event is free but registration is required. Register here -

Then on Friday 14th May at 1.00pm, Scottish Badgers and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, in

partnership with Get Outdoors Lanarkshire are hosting an online session looking at how tracking wildlife helps us connect with nature; learn about the links between tracking and wellbeing and how it ties in the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Get tips on how to get started with tracking and learn how to identify your finds. Sign up to join us.

Last but not least, there are going to be some green elves out and about in Lanarkshire over the next week, so keep your eyes peeled and check out what they've been up to on our social media.

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