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Green Health Week 2024

I can't quite believe that we're already in May and Green Health Week 2024 starts this Saturday, 11th May! It only seems like yesterday that we were promoting connection to nature through the five ways to wellbeing in May 2023, and I'm ashamed to admit that I still have one of our display trees lurking in the back of my car. Of course in one sense, we've never stopped promoting nature connection in this way, that's one of the key things we're here to do. As usual, our celebrations overlap with Mental Health Awareness Week which runs from 13th to 19th May. Their theme for this year is Movement: moving more for our mental health.

The Mental Health Foundation website provides a long list of all the different ways to build movement into your day, many of which we would thoroughly endorse, including, obviously, moving in nature. Our colleagues in the NHS have pulled together a helpful map of the outdoor gym equipment, play parks and health walks that are happening across Lanarkshire. Exercising outdoors, whatever form that takes, can be easier and a bit nicer than going to a gym, especially as the weather improves over the summer. To really get the benefits though, take some time to be mindful when you're outdoors, using your senses to connect with what's around you; clouds passing overhead, the feel of the breeze on your skin, the birds singing. And while it's lovely to be able to visit astonishingly beautiful countryside, don't forget that you can still experience awe in nature, seeing the moon rise in the city, or noticing a fern pushing its way out of a drain. Nature is all around us and we are a part of it.

Another type of beneficial movement in nature is komorebi, the Japanese word for sunlight filtering through the trees. I don't think that officially there has to be any movement, but what is nicer in springtime than newly green trees, leaves gently rustling in the wind as the sun shines through them, throwing a nature disco of fractals all around you. Described by CS Lewis as one of life's "pure and spontaneous pleasures" and by Dylan Thomas as "windfall light" it's another route to awe in nature; nature moving us, as it were, rather than us moving in nature. Thanks to this article for some more insights into the phenomenon. A word too on fractals which have also been shown to improve our wellbeing; fractals are repeating patterns often seen in nature, leaves, unfurling ferns, flowers, snowflakes. A study by the University of Oregon showed that it only takes the human brain 50 milliseconds to detect fractals and can confer up to a 60 percent reduction in stress and mental fatigue. All from looking at some leaves! Find out more from this video which includes some mesmeric pictures of natural fractals.

May is also Walking Month and our friends at Living Streets, Paths for All and Go Jauntly are full of ideas to help you capture the #magicofwalking and put a #springinyourstep Download 31 ideas to put a spring in your step over at the Paths for all website; we particularly liked looking for five different species of plants. In one unprepossessing roadside verge today we spotted garlic mustard, nettles, cleavers, hawthorn and dandelions, all things that are seen as beneficial for human health (although perhaps not when they are this close to a main road). If 31 ideas aren't enough, Living Streets have 20 more tips to encourage us to walk for 20 minutes every day in May. They want us to share what we think is magic about walking (and wheeling) with them for the chance to win a prize. Go Jauntly are challenging us to #walkthismay and as a result we're challenging you to NOT find yourself with Aerosmith as your earworm every time you go for a walk this month. Talking of challenges, you can still sign up to their Sunshine Challenge walking 600km before the 5th July.

If you're in the Wishaw area, particularly working at or visiting the hospital, take of our two new walks on the Go Jauntly app, one shows the route from the station to the hospital for all you potential active travellers, and the other is a short stroll around the King George V park taking in the new community garden which is looking very fine, complete with orchard, plenty of fruit, veg and herbs and some comfy benches in the sunshine, as we can attest. The official launch of the garden is taking place on Tuesday 14th May. Find out more about it here and watch a video about the hospital gardening projects delivered by Clydesdale Community Initiatives as part of the Lanarkshire Green Health Partnership here. Final walking shout out to our friends at Get Walking Lanarkshire who are celebrating their tenth anniversary with a series of celebratory walks. Find out more and book here.

Finally, don't forget the Green Elf Code this Green Health Week. Stop. Look. Listen. Connect with nature.

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