Research suggests that wellbeing becomes ‘elevated’ when people experience some kind of engagement or connection with the larger world, outside of themselves. So, when we extend ourselves beyond focusing primarily on the ‘self’ (our needs, worries, regrets or desires for the future), we relax and our wellbeing improves.

Spending time in green space or bringing nature into our everyday lives can benefit both our 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 stressor 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.

For those of us who live in the city – even really green cities like Sheffield, it can sometime feel difficult to connect with nature, so here are a few really simple ideas for getting nature into your life, even when you’re in the middle of the city:

Grow some plants

Even if you don’t have a garden or aren’t very mobile, caring for plants indoors can still help you get some benefits from nature. (See our page on food & mood for more information.)

Or you could think about communal gardening.  A lot of our parks have walled gardens, which rely on volunteers to keep them looking lovely. They welcome new members to get their hands dirty with hands-on tasks like seed planting, and garden upkeep. 

Stop and listen to the birds

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.

If that's not possible, well we’re so lucky in Sheffield because we have lots of green spaces. Why not take a walk to your local park, sit on a bench and listen to the birds? Listening to birdsong provides us with pleasure and birds are interesting to watch, attracting our attention and distracting our minds from daily routines. Watching and listening to birds is thought to promote recovery from mental fatigue, and facilitate a recovery from stress. 

if you listen often you may be able to identify different breeds and you can use the guide on the RSPB website to help identify the birds you are seeing and hearing.

Go fruit picking

Look for local farms or orchards that let you pick fruit to buy. In Sheffield we have several pick-your-own farms that are accessible by bus. You’ll also find fruit growing in urban spaces, for example wild blackberries, apples and plums.

Eat meals outdoors

Picking all that fruit might just inspire you to have yourself a picnic in a local park, at a local landmark or in your garden. This might be something you could enjoy doing with other people, a shared meal is a great way to bring people together and eating outdoors will provide things of interest for you all to talk about.

Join a local walking or rambling group 

Walking is a very popular pastime for a lot of people and you don't have to have a lot of fancy gear or live in the middle of the countryside to enjoy a good ramble. You can take part in walks that explore both the urban and rural environment and you can follow guided trails or explore your own routes, maybe visit the same places at different times of the year to see how seasonal changes to light, smell and sound can alter the look and character of different places - its up to you where and how you do it but do try it, as walking is proven to be beneficial to both physical and mental wellbeing.

Here are just some examples of local groups/walks that you can join : Walking For Health  Her on a Hill   The Outdoor City The Ramblers  You could follow a woodland trail, visit the Forestry Commission England website for further information about accessible trails across the country.

Watch out for wildlife

Get into your local park to look for squirrels, fish, insects, dogs. ducks and other birds.

Sheffield has a wealth of green spaces and we're fortunate to have a range of parks and gardens, each and with its own unique attractions, just consider the urban farm at Graves, the bear pit at the Botanical Gardens, the array of fruit tress on the Ponderosa... whatever you enjoy doing, there's a green space to do it in!

We were fortunate enough to be asked to contribute to a guide of Sheffield's 13 city parks along with colleagues from other organisations. Click on the image for further details and to download a copy 

We are grateful to Gnome Student Homes for including us in their lovely guide and for encouraging people to celebrate just what a historic and picturesque city we have!

Visit a local community or city farm and get to see nature up-close 

You might be able to help out by volunteering (See the Social Farms & Gardens website for more information.) or maybe purchase the food grown from the farm shop, try new things, or learn to eat and cook according to the seasons.

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 whilst you're out-and-about. 

Other ideas

Take part in a nature survey. This might involve counting birds, animals or insects at 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.)

Look up at the sky. It’s always there, even if you can only glimpse a thin slice through your window.  Are there clouds? What shapes do they make? At night you can look out of that window at the stars - we don't always get a great display in the city, but give it a try.