The link between nature and wellbeing
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If you ever struggle with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness — you’re not alone.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in six New Zealanders will be diagnosed with some form of mental health disorder throughout their life. Many others go untreated, and even those who aren’t affected by long-term problems might struggle with their mental health every now and then.

That’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself and those around you, and to pay attention to your mental wellbeing.

October 9–15 is Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual event organised by the Mental Health Foundation to increase understanding and decrease stigma around mental health. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is “Nature is King”, and it’s all about getting outdoors and experiencing nature to improve your wellbeing.

We’ve all heard about the positive effects that regular exercise can have on our mental health, but combine this with exposure to nature, and the benefits grow even more. With that in mind, here are five tips for getting outdoors and feeling good about this beautiful country we live in.

5 ways to boost your wellbeing with nature

1. Play a team sport

Exercise releases endorphins, which give us a calm, relaxed feeling and can improve mental wellbeing. Sport is also great for team building and fitness, so grab your workmates, friends or family and organise a game of soccer, touch rugby, cricket or netball. If the weather is bad, book a game at your local indoor sports centre.

2. Go on a bush walk or tramp

There’s no better way to get up close and personal with our country’s natural beauty than with a bush walk or a tramp. Not only is the exercise good for your physical and mental health, but you can learn about our fauna and flora and experience some stunning scenery as well. DOC’s website has all the information you’ll need to get started. Just remember to pack warm, weatherproof clothing, sturdy footwear and a water bottle.

3. Plan a treasure hunt

The next time you’re kicking around at home with the kids on the weekend, consider organising a treasure hunt — it’s a great way to get everyone out of the house and into the great outdoors. Draw a map, hide some treats and plan some games along the way. Not only will the kids get a solid workout and have some fun in the process, but you will too.

4. Walk or bike to work

Walking or biking to work is great for your health, the environment and your bank balance. Benefits of regular walking include maintaining a healthy weight, preventing or managing conditions such as high blood pressure, and an improved mood. To make your journey more interesting, change your route up every now and then or recruit a friend to walk or bike with you.

5. Swim, surf or paddle board

People have recognised the healing power of the ocean for centuries, and water sports offer many ways to keep fit while you’re outside. Seawater contains several properties that are good for your body, including magnesium, potassium and sodium. And if the water is nice and brisk, you’ll enhance your circulation, burn a few calories and get an endorphin boost.

Z is committed to promoting better understanding of mental health and supporting wellbeing, both in the workplace and at home. This year's Good In The Hood initiative saw 29% of donations go to health and wellness charities — a reflection of how important these issues are to all New Zealand communities.

Want to know more?

Visit the the Mental Health Awareness Week website. And if you’re feeling particularly run down and need to talk to someone, try one these helplines.

Lifeline (open 24/7) — 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) — 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) — 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) — 0800 726 666

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