Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 10th – 16th May, and provides a great opportunity for secondary schools and further education settings to normalise the discussion of mental health and wellbeing amongst pupils and staff. The theme for this year’s week is ‘nature’. Recent National Trust research found a link between feeling connected to nature and having improved wellbeing. To help schools celebrate the nature theme of the week, we’ve included some resources about nature and mental health in this toolkit. It’s important to keep the focus on mental health and wellbeing throughout the school year, beyond Mental Health Awareness Week, so we’ve also included resources to help open up conversations about mental health in education settings all year round.


How can nature benefit my mental health? Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. For example, doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have lots of positive effects.

It can:

 improve your mood

 reduce feelings of stress or anger

 help you take time out and feel more relaxed

 improve your physical health  improve your confidence and self-esteem

 help you be more active

 help you make new connections

 provide peer support.

“Nurturing something else into life has really helped my wellbeing – gently caring for something helped me learn to care for myself.” We all have different experiences of nature, and different reasons for wanting to connect with it more – or feeling unsure about whether to try. You might find you get something completely different from one activity compared to someone else.



What nature ideas could I try?

Grow or pick food

 Create a growing space. If you don't have access to a garden, you could plant salad leaves or herbs in a window box or plant pot.

 Plant vegetables in your garden. (The Carry on Gardening and Thrive websites have information to help you get started.)

 Grow food together with others. Apply to share an allotment, or look for community gardens or food growing projects in your local area. (See the National Allotment Society and Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens websites for more information.) 

 Go fruit picking. Look for local farms or orchards that let you pick fruit to buy. You might also find fruit growing in urban spaces, for example wild blackberries.

 Learn to find edible plants, also known as food foraging. You could see if a foraging group meets in your local area. (The Woodland Trust website has more information on foraging.)

Quick tip: if you're going fruit picking or foraging, be aware that not all wild plants are safe to eat. Before eating something you've picked yourself, make sure you know exactly what it is.


What nature ideas could I try?

Bring nature inside

 Buy flowers or potted plants for your home.

 Collect natural materials, for example leaves, flowers, feathers, tree bark or seeds – use them to decorate your living space or in art projects.

 Arrange a comfortable space to sit, for example by a window where you can look out over a view of trees or the sky.

 Grow plants or flowers on windowsills. (See the Royal Horticultural Society website for tips on planting seeds indoors.)

 Take photos of your favourite places in nature. Use them as backgrounds on a mobile phone or computer screen, or print and put them up on your walls.

 Listen to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall.

Quick tip: save glass jars and use them to make mini gardens (also known as terrariums), using plants, soil, stones and anything else you'd like to include. Some people like to add seashells, or plastic toys or figurines.


What nature ideas could I try?

Do activities outdoors

 Take a walk in green space, such as a local park.

 Get creative. Draw or paint animals or nature scenes, or let them inspire a poem or song lyrics. If you enjoy writing in a journal, try doing this outside.

 Eat meals outdoors. Have a picnic in a local park, or simply sit in a garden. This might be something you could enjoy doing with other people.

 Watch the stars. Use a stargazing website, app or book to help you recognise different stars, or simply enjoy looking at the night sky. Give your eyes time to adjust, as it can take about 20 minutes before you can fully see stars in the dark.

 Try exercising outside. Run or jog through a local park, or do yoga outdoors. You could try it by yourself, or with friends or family.

 Follow a woodland trail.

 Go beachcombing. Visit the seaside and search the shoreline for interesting things.

 Try geocaching. Geocaching involves looking for items in hidden outdoor locations, using a device such as a mobile phone or tablet. (The National Trust website has more information on geocaching.)

 Be mindful in nature. Find things to see, hear, taste, smell and touch, like grass under your feet or the feeling of wind and sunlight. You could also listen to recordings of mindfulness exercises. (MINDS pages on mindfulness and taking a mindful moment in nature have more information.)

Quick tip: if you're going out on your own for longer than you usually would, or walking somewhere you don't know well, plan ahead and remember to keep your safety in mind. If you can, let someone know where you're going and for how long, and take your phone with you (making sure it's fully charged).


What nature ideas could I try?

Help the environment

 Go on a litter picking walk, for example, in the park or on the beach.

 Plant helpful seeds, such as berry bushes for garden birds or flowers to help bumblebees. (See the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website for more information on bumblebees.)

 Build an animal habitat, for example, build a hedgehog house or create a pond if you have enough space. (See the Hedgehog Street website for information on building a hedgehog house.)


What nature ideas could I try?

Connect with animals

 Watch out for wildlife. If you don't live near open countryside, try visiting a local park to look for squirrels, fish, insects, ducks and other birds.

 Visit a local community farm. You might be able to help out by volunteering. (See the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens websites for more information.)

 Hang a bird feeder outside a window. If there's space, you could build a small wooden nesting box on a tree or under a windowsill.

 Try birdwatching. You don't need any special equipment. (See the RSPB website for more information on feeding, sheltering and watching birds.)

 Try pet-sitting or dog walking. Offer to be a pet sitter in your local neighbourhood, volunteer to walk dogs for an animal shelter, or ask to borrow a friend's dog for occasional evening or weekend walks.

 Take part in a nature survey. This might involve counting birds, animals or insects in a particular time and place, or reporting individual sightings of wildlife. (See the Big Garden Birdwatch, Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Big Butterfly Count for examples of nature surveys.)

Click the images below to take you to the links to the resources


Where else could I try?

Gardening, farming and conservation

Care Farming UK

Online directory of local care farms.

Carry on Gardening

National charity helping anyone with a disability start or continue gardening.

The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)

UK conservation projects and Green Gyms.

Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens

Information and directory of city farms that offer therapeutic gardening and farming activities.

Grow Wild (English) (Welsh)
A national outreach initiative of the
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, encouraging people to engage with nature and transform spaces by planting seeds.

National Allotment Society

National organisation that upholds the rights and interests of the UK’s allotment community.

Royal Horticultural Society

National charity for gardening and plantlife.



Charity that runs gardening projects for people with mental health problems. Also runs the Carry on Gardening website.


Pets and wildlife

Blue Cross

Animal charity helping sick, injured and homeless pets.

Big Butterfly Count

A survey of butterflies in the UK.

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Charity aiming to protect and raise awareness of bumblebees.

Hedgehog Street

Campaign to help protect hedgehogs.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)

Animal charity working to prevent cruelty and promote kindness to animals in England and Wales.

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

Campaigning and conservation projects to protect wildlife and restore habitats.


Places to explore

Canal and River Trust (English) (Welsh)
Looks after canals, rivers and locks in England and Wales.

Forestry Commission England

Works to protect England's woods and forests.

National Trust

Lists walks and open gardens, parks and estates that you can visit.

Natural Resources Wales (Cyfoeth Naturiol)

Oversees and protects natural sites in Wales.

Woodland Trust


Protects trees and forests in the UK.

Walking, rambling and adventuring

Lets Walk Cymru

Network of health-walk schemes in Wales.


Charity whose goal is to protect people’s ability to enjoy being outdoors on foot.

Walking for Health

Network of health-walk schemes in England.

Wilderness Foundation

Offers facilitated courses in wilderness therapy.



National database of volunteering opportunities locally around the UK. Lists all kinds of volunteering work, including nature-related opportunities.


National charity which offers environmental volunteering opportunities to improve local communities.

The Wildlife Trusts

Organisation made up of local membership groups which care for nature sites.