"I sometimes struggle with the motivation to go outside but when I do, I always feel the benefits"

Photo of a Nicki standing on Brighton seafront with beach in background

Southdown's Peer Trainer, Nicki, shares how the Brighton and Hove Recovery College's 'Spending Timing In Nature' course benefits students...

"I’m Nicki and I co-produced the Spending Time in Nature course for Brighton and Hove Recovery College with my fellow trainer Abbie.

My role within the college is that of Peer Trainer – an adult education tutor with lived experience of mental health challenges; depression and anxiety in my case. My background is in teaching recovery focused educational and recreational courses and workshops.

The Spending Time in Nature course was designed for anybody who wants to connect more with nature for pleasure and wellbeing. We guide and encourage students to find, re-find and share ways of experiencing and connecting with the natural world.

Some aspects of the course involve walking in nature while consciously using our senses to be present and ‘notice’ things - what can we see, hear, smell, feel; identifying some of the flora and fauna in our urban or rural environments;  journaling and simple nature crafting. An important element of the course is sharing the different ways we each have of spending time with the natural world, be that walking, gardening, sitting at the window watching birds come and go, cycling or doing yoga in the open air.

It’s a reminder of the mental and physical benefits of nature connection, improving our mental wellbeing and resilience. It energises us. We are also calmed by nature – it opens up our senses and our appreciation of the world in general. Our confidence and self-esteem can improve too and as we can become more active so does our general health. Looking outwards rather than inwards is effective in decreasing stress and the symptoms of anxiety. Our vitality is increased and we better recognise our place in the world.

Being around trees can have specific benefits. They can lower our levels of cortisone which in turn decreases stress and anxiety. We need trees. They capture carbon which is essential to remove air pollution and halt the impact of climate change.

Despite needing to run the course online participants are still able to individually go out in their local areas during each session, some saying that it was easier due to being more focussed than walking in a group.

I sometimes struggle with the motivation to go outside but when I do, I always feel the benefits. I enjoy walking on the downs and by the sea, cycling, and doing my yoga practice outside on the grass, looking up at the sky.

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is nature. Why not take a walk, cycle or sit this week in a green space in your local area and see how your wellbeing improves?"

Brighton and Hove Recovery College is delivered by Southdown in partnership with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and as part of the Community Roots network. The College offers educational courses as a route to recovery from mental health challenges. All our courses are free and designed and delivered by people with lived experience of mental health challenges, together with clinical staff and other professionals.