Mental Health Awareness Week is endorsed by the World Federation for Mental Health and marked in over 150 countries. In New Zealand it is usually celebrated to coincide with World Mental Health Day on October 10.
The 2016 theme for NZ Mental Health Awareness Week is:
Connect with nature for good mental health and wellbeing.
Connect, Me Whakawhanaunga
Connecting with nature is great for you. The beauty is in how simple it can be. Remember if you can’t get outside, you can always bring the outdoors in.
• Go barefoot and feel the grass or sand beneath your feet.
• Cloud gaze – what shapes can you see? Notice how quickly the sky moves around you and how beautiful the fresh air is.
• Walk in nature with a friend.
• Bird watch.
• Find a nature photo online and make it your computer background.
• Organise a class/work/family picnic in your local park.
• Use natural material to make art – think seaweed, shell, sand and flowers.
• Create a green space in your school, office or home with indoor plants. If you’re the competitive type, you could instigate a green space competition.
• Trek to ngahere; korero karakia with tangaroa and your maunga. (Talk and pray with your god and your mountain).
• Bathe in the mauri ora (life spirit) of our natural environment that gives us its own wonderful oranga (health, welfare etc).
Nature provides, it gives everything needed to not only survive, but thrive. Here are some cool ways you can give back to nature:
• Volunteer at an organised beach clean-up or do your own. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and keep Aotearoa beautiful
• Volunteer for DOC, or another nature-related charity close to your heart.
• Plant trees – there are many opportunities to join tree planting days across New Zealand, a simple Google search will reveal one closest to you.
• Challenge yourself to produce less waste. It’s amazing to see how much you use each day that isn’t necessary.
• Use public transport more often, or start carpooling days with your co-workers/neighbours.
• Offer to help a neighbour out with some gardening or other outside chores, eg, mow their lawns or water their plants.
Take Notice, Me aro tonu
It’s common to go about your daily life, oblivious to your natural environment. Take some time to be mindful of what’s happening around you.
• Take notice of the night sky. Be aware of what phase the moon is in and how the visible constellations change throughout the year.
• Go somewhere you’ve always been meaning to visit in your local area.
• Collect and measure the rainfall in your garden and keep a diary of the weather you notice each day.
• Choose a square of earth in the garden to explore with a magnifying glass. Perhaps you could create a scrapbook about what you find.
• Go for a bush walk with your camera and photograph until your heart’s content while taking the time to really notice what you are photographing.
• Create a photo diary of a favourite place, plant, animal or tree.
• Take a selfie with the different manu (birds) in your area.
Keep Learning, Me ako tonu
There is always something new to learn and discover when you interact with nature:
• Learn how the natural environment can help heal you. What natural resources have you got in your backyard that could be used for medicinal or edible purposes?
• Take a trip to the zoo and learn about the animals and their habitats.
• Learn about local flora and fauna. Go on a bush walk and try to identify the different animal and plant species you see.
• Create a worm farm in your backyard.
• Visit the observatory or learn about the constellations.
• Consider volunteering for DOC, Forest and Bird, Project Jonah, Coastguard, SPCA or another nature related cause where you can learn new skills and immerse yourself in nature.
Be Active, Me kori tonu
Getting outside exposure and exercising is good for your overall health and wellbeing, plus it strengthens you connection with nature:
• Climb your maunga or swim in your awa or moana. (Climb your mountain and swim in the rivers and sea).
• Try tai chi classes for strength, balance and mental wellbeing.
• Bring activity into the everyday, eg, use the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to colleagues to talk with them instead of phoning, and get off the bus one stop earlier than your stop.
• Take a family walk after dinner, or a longer one on the weekend. Let family members take turns to choose where to go.
• Start a walking school bus for kids in your area.
• Join a sports club to be active and meet people at the same time – tennis, bowls, touch rugby, netball, there is so much to choose from.
• Design a treasure hunt or fun challenges to get to a mystery nature rich destination for your friends, family or workmates.
For more information on Mental health Awareness Week, visit mhaw.nz
What’s on Waikato
Buggy Fit – (10-11am, October 13, Chartwell Park, Queenwood)
Get out in the fresh air with your child(ren) and come and join in for a workout. Suitable for all abilities and fitness levels. Children of all ages are welcome in this supportive, friendly and encouraging group. A gold coin donation can be made to workout with proceeds forwarded to the Mental Health Foundation. Hosted by Launch Fitness; workouts designed by mothers for mothers.
Timata Hou Open day – (10am-2pm, October 13, 41 Duke St, Ngaruawahia)
Progress to Health – a mental health and disability support organisation is hosting an open day at their nursery in Ngaruawahia. Come along and “connect with nature”. Hosted by Progress to Health.
To get New Zealanders thinking about how easy it is to schedule in some quality time with nature, the MHF is holding a national MHAW Lockout on World Mental Health Day – Monday October 10. From 12–1pm, Kiwis will head outside and discover how happiness and wellbeing blooms when we start to connect with the nature that surrounds us every day.
“We’re holding the MHAW Lockout rain or shine,” says MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson. “At noon, turn off your computer, down your tools, shut up shop and head outside to explore the world around you. You don’t need to strap on your hiking boots or your skis – just go and explore the blue and green spaces you work and live around every day.
“It’s about making time to feel naturally happy – it’s easier than you might think!”