RT Ambassador Jenny: ‘Nature is always there for us’
This Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re celebrating the impact nature can have on our mental wellbeing. Today, we hear from Jenny Pearson—Rivers Trust Ambassador—about her experience. If you have ever found joy or peace on the banks of a river, please do consider making a donation. With your help, we can make sure that everyone can always access healthy, wild rivers.
If you are interested in becoming an Ambassador for The Rivers Trust, please head over to our Ambassador page for more information.
Nature is always there for us
The morning air was getting warmer as the sun creeped higher in the sky. All around me, the songbirds had ruffled their feathers and pumped out their little chests, throwing out beautiful notes and songs into the forest – I heard willow warblers, black birds, black caps and even the drilling of a woodpecker. I came to a clearing to the right of the path and decided to follow it, not knowing where it would lead, my sense of adventure and curiosity had taken over. On either side of the clearing, thick and yellow, gorse filled the warm air with its tropical coconut scent. It opened out into a large field, the grass was tall and speckled with cuckoo flowers and daisies. Some lone, tall Sycamore and Oak trees were scattered around the field, from which I could hear chattering gold finches, perching on the highest branches. I walked straight across the grass, just to see where it might take me. Eventually, I reached the edge of the field. It was thick with green plants I didn’t recognise. Carefully, to avoid my ankles being stung by nettles or any holes or uneven ground I might twist my foot in, I crept across the thick vegetation. I could hear the trickling of water over rocks and I had to find out where it was coming from. Butterflies caught my eyes as they zoomed around me – orange tips, peacocks and small tortoiseshells – coming to rest on the wildflowers for a moment and then taking off again, flying with great speed and a flash of colour against the blue sky.
I soon reached the river. In the morning sun it glistened like jewels as it flowed. The sunlight flitted through the trees, dancing on the leaves and projecting a golden tinge all around. The water was clear, and I noticed, that for the first time in weeks, so was my head. Beside the river was a crumbled and ancient wall, moss and ferns coated in it in green, time had begun to reclaim it back into nature. I found a clear area on the crumbled wall and sat for a moment, watching, listening, taking it all in.
In the past few weeks, since the government announced a nationwide lock-down, I have felt my own anxieties and worries, as irrational of many of them are, heighten. In this weird time, that I hope we never have to repeat, I have clung onto my passion for nature and the outdoors. Nature has incredible calming powers and can help one forget about their worries for a moment.
Sitting on the wall, at the edge of the river, I felt my breathing slow. I was very aware of my surroundings – the colours, the smells, the sounds. To connect with nature is to interact with nature, it is to submerge yourself in it, and to create a meaningful experience. Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally noticing and paying attention – many people do this in different ways, I find this easiest in the calm of the natural world. That day on the wall, as the water rushed at my feet, I allowed nature to take over my thoughts. I turned off my camera, I put away my phone and I payed attention. I felt my anxieties shrink and my worries disappear – I felt like, at that moment, I was the only person around for miles and nothing else mattered. It was just me, the river and the trees.
Nature is a part of us, we all have a little bit of nature inside of us and when we connect with nature, our bodies thank us for it. More and more studies are appearing that support spending time in nature for positive effects on our health – physically and mentally. For me, the impacts that spending time in nature has on my mental wellbeing cannot be understated. In the moment, my mind is cleared, and for hours after I continue feeling the benefits – reduced stress, improved mood and even improved confidence.
If we are there for nature, nature will be there for us.