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Ask Andy – Blog 16

Ask Andy Blog 16 – April 2021

National Mental Health Awareness Week takes place in the week commencing 10th May 2021. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, and this year it is focusing on nature.

Getting outdoors and connecting with the natural world has been known to have benefits for our mental health for some time and in truth it is only over the last 100 years that our lifestyles have become more separated from nature. However, the pandemic and the restrictions that have followed have led to a 45% increase in those taking a regular walk and getting outside. Being forced to stay home has made us realise that the outdoors and interacting with nature is one of the best therapies for nurturing mental health.

One of the most enjoyable moments of TV during lockdown 1 were the Mindfulness Moments organised by the BBC during their Springwatch series. Amongst the fear, anxiety and isolation, those moments where we could lose ourselves in nature were priceless and the camera work was stunning. If you missed them then you can watch them again by clicking here. 

Not only are we curious about nature and often enchanted by it, but we are also governed by the natural cycles of the year and as winter turns to spring, we have the hope of new life from the cold featureless winter landscape and the promise of warmer days. No surprise then that lockdown 3 through those cold winter months was the hardest lockdown for most of us.

For me, the process over winter of re-planning parts of my garden, planting bulbs in November and watching as the first snowdrops and then daffodils emerge are hugely important to my mental health. As I write we now have bees out and about, blossom on the trees and gorgeous swathes of bluebells. This was a picture that I took in lockdown 1 last year whilst out on a walk.

There are now well researched reasons for why getting outdoors into nature is good for you.

It can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, help to improve your physical health, and improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Indeed, I believe that the NHS have prescribed angling to reduce stress. Being out in nature, interacting with the world around you, is so good for you.

It is also great for children and young people and there are several organisations who can support schools in this work.

The Forest School Association

We Can Grow

In many ways a whole school wellbeing culture is just like a plant that we nurture from seed.

When we come together as a school, to agree a philosophy, culture and plan we plant the seed and give it an initial watering. However, the seed won’t grow unless we all look after and tend it, water it regularly and prevent it from being damaged or coming to harm. That needs everyone doing their bit to nurture it.

Wellbeing isn’t something the head does for everyone; it is about every member of staff looking after each other and their wellbeing. If the plant looks dry, then we need to make sure that we take the initiative to water it and so it is with wellbeing. Some of the best wellbeing I have seen in schools has been built by cleaners, teaching assistants and teachers, not necessarily by school leaders.

Be aware of others and their wellbeing as you may be best placed to support it. Maybe buy a symbolic plant and place it at the heart of your school as a reminder to water it and nurture it and everyone else’s wellbeing.

Don’t forget that at SAS we are here to support your school and the development of a wellbeing culture. We want to help you to build a positive wellbeing culture in your school and as we move out of the restrictions that we have had with Covid, I am increasingly getting out to visit schools and have conversations with schools about how we can do this in your context.

If this is of interest to you there are two ways we can begin this work, which is free to you as part of the policy you have with SAS.

Firstly, I have a dedicated 1 hour zoom clinic that I can do with your leadership team, head or governors and you can sign up for this, click here. 

If you would prefer a face-to-face conversation which is always more useful in getting a sense of where you are currently with the whole school wellbeing work, then do please contact me at andy.mellor@uk-sas.co.uk

If you’d like me to come and speak at a conference that you are planning or know that is happening again, please do contact me. The more schools hear about the wellbeing culture that they can build and how it can support staff wellbeing and pupil outcomes the better.

Ask Andy

If you have questions about wellbeing practice, would like to suggest future content for Andy's blogs or if you are having success with wellbeing culture in your school and would like to share your story, please complete the form below.