10 May Connecting with mental health
When was the last time you got up from your desk and went for a walk? Perhaps more importantly, when was the last time you encouraged your people to do the same? Over the last year successive lockdowns have seen a rise in outdoor exercise, but have we been taking that exercise only in our non-working time, and is there a danger that as businesses and events open up we may slide into more sedentary habits?
Perhaps it is important therefore that we take note of the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021. The week, which runs from the 10th to the 16th May, looks to promote nature as being central to mental and psychological health. Its organisers are calling on people to experience, share, and talk about nature in a bid to find new ways to connect with nature in our daily lives.
The benefits of exercise and green spaces in boosting mental health have long been understood but perhaps it is the pandemic that has brought them into sharp focus. A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 59% of respondents used walking as an antidote to covid-related stress whilst 50% visited green spaces for the same reason.
If connecting with nature can help people cope with Covid, it is a fair bet that it can also help people to cope with stresses in their working lives. Sometimes just standing up from the desk and walking outside can help to de-escalate stress; particularly if we are grappling with a tricky dilemma. Simply by stepping away from the problem we allow our minds to roam free; in the process enabling our unconscious brain to create solutions that we may not have thought of when staring at a screen.
Company Directors have a legal duty to look after the interests of their employees. It can be all too tempting to insist on people being at their desks, whether at home or in the office, during working hours. But by doing so we may be doing our people a disservice, adding to stress levels rather than helping them to undertake productive work. A policy of encouraging people to go outside, to exercise and to enjoy nature might just help to reduce stress levels and to increase positive working outcomes.
As Mark Rowland, the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation commented: nature has a “unique ability to not only bring consolation in times of stress, but also increase our creativity, empathy and a sense of wonder.”