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Mental Health Awareness Week 9-15 May

Mental Health Awareness Week: Connect with nature

There is still time to get involved with our Mental Health Awareness Week activities and events. Today, we want to inspire you to not just make connections with other people, but to also make connections with nature, to tackle loneliness and boost your wellbeing.

You can do this by meeting our Wellbeing Champion Student Ambassadors for Walk My Dog events today at Falmer (meet outside Checkland at 12pm) and Moulsecoomb (meet outside Manor House at 2pm), to explore the amazing countryside surrounding our campuses.

If you can’t make it to these events, our Active Health and Wellbeing Officer Naiomi Levack-Payne has written this short piece to inspire you to make time for being mindful in nature, whenever you can. Plus, next week the Brighton Students’ Union will be hosting a series of ‘Give it a Go’ events for their own Wellbeing Week, including a yoga workshop and woodland walk on Friday 20 May.

Tackling loneliness by connecting with nature

According to the BBC’s Loneliness Experiment, loneliness is felt most intensely by young people aged 16-24. So, for around 40% of young people, the time between leaving sixth form and graduating university can be the loneliest of their lives. Moving away from family and leaving friends from home behind means that many university students face a unique set of challenges that can have a severe impact on their mental health. Despite being surrounded by people, feelings of loneliness and isolation are common.

Tackling loneliness can be a complex issue. Although there’s lots of social spaces around campus, opportunities for meaningful connection can be hard to come by. And for some people, being around lots of people can feel isolating, particularly as we transition back into normal life after lockdown. But being surrounded by people isn’t the only way to tackle loneliness. Meaningful connection can be found in lots of places, whether that’s over coffee with a flat mate, joining a club or society or by simply connecting with the world around you.

Connecting with nature improves our mental health and wellbeing, as well as helping combat loneliness.  Natural places in cities, like public parks, provide an opportunity to connect with your space and find a sense of belonging and attachment to where you live.  At The University of Brighton, we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by natural beauty with both the beach and the South Downs National Park on our doorstep. Just being in the presence of nature can be enough to help us breathe easier and reduce the feelings of anxiety that come with loneliness but making a conscious effort to connect with nature can benefit our mental health and wellbeing even more.

Just like the quality of our relationships with people is key in tackling loneliness, the quality of our connection with nature is pivotal in experiencing its benefits. Building a strong connection with nature means feeling a close relationship with the environment around us. It is this strong connection that can help combat loneliness. The key to building your connection with nature is taking the time to experience your surroundings with all of your senses. So next time you are in nature or looking at a view, take time to notice the feel of the grass or the breeze, notice the taste and smell of the air, notice the colour of plants or sky and listen to the sounds of the birds or of the waves as they hit the shore. This mindful practice will anchor you to your surroundings and help you develop a meaningful connection to the nature that is around you.

Find out more about just some of the beautiful natural environments we have on our doorstep here:

Cuckmere Valley – National Trust

Holywell Retreat – Visit Eastbourne

Home – South Downs National Park Authority

Brighton Beach – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

Friston Forest – Forestry England

Stanmer Park, Brighton – Parks & Gardens

BSUeventmental healthmental health awareness weeknaturewalk my dogwellbeing champions

Alice Maguire • 13 May 2022

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