Survey findings released by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (MHF) today reveal the positive impact spending time in nature has on the mental health of New Zealanders. Of those Kiwis surveyed following last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, 95% said that spending time in nature during the week made them feel good and 75% said they intended to spend more regular time in nature.
These new findings have been released ahead of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) from 8–14 October, which encourages people to Let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing – Mā te taiao, kia whakapakari tōu oranga!
The week will involve a number of events, challenges, resources and educational activities to help New Zealanders place their wellbeing front and centre.
“We all have mental health,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says. “It’s something we all need to take good care of, every day.”
“We know connecting with nature makes us feel good, and every little bit helps us find balance, build resilience and boost mental wellbeing.”
Research has shown that spending time in nature lifts people’s moods, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, improves concentration, buffers against stress, makes lives meaningful, speeds recovery from tough times and reduces health inequalities related to poverty.
“We are lucky to live in a country surrounded by natural beauty. Every day we have opportunities to stop, take it in and appreciate the goodness that already surrounds us,” Mr Robinson says.
“Mental Health Awareness Week is about encouraging people check-in with their mental health. We want you to think about what makes you feel good and do more of that.
“We never know what life challenges lie around the corner, but if we invest in our mental health we are much better equipped to handle tough times and can prevent mental health issues.”
Nearly 50% of New Zealanders will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, and depression is set to overcome heart diseases as the biggest global health burden by 2020.
The emphasis on this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is helping workplaces, schools and communities to let nature in and strengthen their wellbeing. The MHF has woven together the Five Ways to Wellbeing with the nights of the Maramataka/Māori lunar calendar to maximise energy with the natural world and boost wellbeing.
“We want people to experience the benefits of being in nature, notice the good feelings and want to repeat these good things as part of their daily lives,” Mr Robinson says.
This year’s activities include a wellbeing photo challenge, community and cultural events, a fancy dress ball, and a workplace challenge for the first time in 2018.
To learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week, visit www.mhaw.nz.