The Mental Health Foundation has released the findings from its survey of 1,025 New Zealanders undertaken after last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week campaign which – as this year’s will too – looked at the links between being in nature and good mental health.

About 95 per cent of those surveyed said that spending time in nature during the week made them feel good and 75 per cent said they intended to spend more regular time in nature.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said mental health is something that all Kiwis need to take good care of every day and Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 October) encourages them to ‘check-in’ on their own mental health and do more of what makes them feel good.

This year’s theme for the week is to encourage people to Let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing! – Mā te taiao, kia whakapakari tōu oranga! 

“We know connecting with nature makes us feel good, and every little bit helps us find balance, build resilience and boost mental wellbeing,” said Robinson.

He said research indicted 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,” said Robinson.

Nearly 50 per cent of New Zealanders will experience some form of mental health problem in their lifetime, and depression is set to overcome heart diseases as the biggest global health burden by 2020.

Robinson said investing time in their mental health helps people be much better equipped to handle tough times that may happen in the future and to prevent mental health issues.

The emphasis for this year’s awareness week is helping workplaces, schools and communities to let nature in and strengthen their 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,” said Robinson.

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.

The MHF week’s programme has also woven together the Five Ways to Wellbeing with the nights of the Maramataka/Māori lunar calendar.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing actions are:

  • Connect
  • Give
  • Take notice
  • Keep learning
  • Be active.

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