“For me, the mental health benefits of spending time in nature are that I get a sense of something bigger than myself”

Southdown’s Recovery College Peer Trainer and Recovery Worker, Abbie, tells us why connecting with nature can be so transformative…

“For me, the mental health benefits of spending time in nature are that I get a sense of something bigger than myself, a sense of belonging to the earth, a sense of wonder that really lifts my spirits and calms me.

This year I’ve got into identifying birdsong. There’s something about learning about the natural world that’s very nourishing. For a long time I didn’t notice nature because I was so much in my head. Now, a whole new world of beauty has opened up. There’s something very precious in the ordinary.

If I’m feeling stressed at work and there’s too much going on in my head, I go to the park and walk by the trees. They’re like familiar friends. It takes me to a bigger space and my whole system calms and my head clears.

Our Recovery College course Spending Time In Nature looks at ways of being in nature that can increase your wellbeing, like being more present, appreciating the beauty of nature, identifying species, and not getting so caught up in difficult thoughts. When we took the course online, students went out to connect with their own area and came back to the class and shared their own stories. It was a lovely way to connect with each other from different parts of the city.

Sometimes we don’t realise what’s on our doorstep. Connecting with the natural world helps us care for it, and that can help us care more for ourselves too.”

In this short film, Abbie leads you through a mindfulness practice and talks about the benefits of finding a place in nature called a Sit Spot:

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.