Engaging with the natural world is being promoted more and more as a way of encouraging positive mental health and well – being. This is especially true during the COVID pandemic. Below are some links, websites, resources, suggestions etc. which you might want to use to help your children engage with their natural health.
Links to websites with Natural Health resources, activities etc.
Laudato - Si Links
Engaging with the natural world – especially to take care of and protect our environment – is a very big part of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si. In it he says that “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”
Below are some suggestions for how you can try to keep your daily walk interesting if you doing the same walk is being to get a bit repetitive!
1. Stand and stare
You might have heard those little lilting lines from the Welsh poet WH Davies: ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.’
He makes a good point. In our busy lives, we’re out of practice at simply being in nature.
Now’s the time to flex our mindfulness muscles and simply be. Choose a point of interest – even something that at first you might have walked on past; a patch of mud or the bark of a tree. Perhaps start further away from it and step forward gradually, noticing more and more detail as you approach. Let your eyes roam over the textures and the colours. That tree trunk that you might have dismissed as simply ‘brown’ before might reveal itself to be dappled with an array of greys, greens and black. That patch of mud might be glittering with tiny frost crystals.
2. Mapping memories
Why not create a map of your daily walk? Pick out all the things that interest you on your walk and then turn them into a map! That chipped postbox that marks the halfway point, the bush with the unusual leaves, the tree with the oddly gnarled trunk etc.
3. Chart the changes
Why not try and track the way your local area changes day by day or week by week? Take your usual local stroll to make sure you get some fresh air and exercise but this time, choose one or two key points along your route. When you get to your chosen points, briefly stop and snap a photo of what you can see. Make a mental note of where you’ve stood (‘just beside the bench, on the path, before that big tree’ is a handy level of detail) and then carry on your way.
The next time you walk, do the same thing in the same place – and the next time, and the next. Compare the photos from the same spots side by side and marvel at how amazingly different the same place can look in different weathers and times of the day.
You can also do this by taking the same snap from your window each day. It’s pretty spectacular to see the changes in that little local place you know so well!
5. Hush it up
As well as standing still to feast our eyes on the wealth of nature around us, even in our humble local spots, it’s a good idea to also try and tune in to the other senses – especially sound.
Again, try standing still and start to tune into the sounds around you. You’ll probably hear your breath (especially if you’re puffing from a jog or uphill climb!), as well as other sounds that we often tune out such as nearby roads or chatting. But stick with it and peel back the layers of sound, noticing more and more.
You might hear the wind rustling dead leaves (especially the last few oak leaves, clinging on through the winter months), or, if you’re near water, lapping sounds or bird calls.
We know the sounds of our favourite places can be utterly absorbing and bring comfort. We made the sounds of tranquillity to bring these places to us indoors – enjoy.
6. Spring forward
Finally, keep an eye on the times of sunrise and sunset each day. Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean setting your alarm to get up with the sun every single day (unless you want to, of course – and for those with young families this point might be… non-negotiable…).
We’d just suggest checking what time the sun will show its face (admittedly often through clouds) and dip down each day. At the time of writing, the time of sunrise is 8.06am – but a week today, it’ll be 8.01am. We can all imagine how important those extra five minutes of light feel at this time of year. There’s great power in noticing the minutes changing, subtly but steadily, as the days get longer.
Digital Natural Health:
There is lots of emerging evidence that even engaging digitally with the natural world can have huge mental health and well-being health benefits. There are some info about this and links to resources to support this: