Staying healthy is not just about getting out and exercising our bodies. It also includes exercising our minds. Our whole person is enhanced if we maintain mental well-being.
Connecting with nature is a proven way to do that, so here are some practical ways to utilise a local park for maintaining good mental health.
Parks are important for our well-being
Parks play a very important part in our well-being as individuals and as a society.
Research from Berkeley University shows that our sense of satisfaction with life increases when we have daily interactions with nature.
Maintaining life satisfaction is especially important in a situation like we are experiencing now.
“Taking a few minutes each day to get out amongst nature and listen to a tūī sing, or watch tree branches in the breeze is great for improving our mental health”, says Mark Bowater, Auckland Council’s Head of Parks Services.
5 ways to well-being in your local park
Knowing where to start can be hard so here are some suggestions of what to do in our local parks to help maintain good mental health through self-isolation:
The Mental Health Foundation promotes five ways to well-being.
Applying these principles will help to stay grounded and cope with the pressures of self-isolation.
- Me Whakawhanaunga (Connect)
- Me Aka Tonu (Keep Learning)
- Me Kori Tonu (Be Active)
- Tukua (Give)
- Me Aro Tonu (Take Notice)
Me Whakawhanaunga (Connect)
Getting out and about is a great start for connection.
The simple practice of waving at friends or a quick chat while maintaining the two-meter distancing rules while out can give you the connection you need to tick this box.
Me Aka Tonu (Keep Learning)
Keeping the brain stimulated and challenged is great for your mental health.
Auckland's parks are full of native bush so they are a great place to learn about our New Zealand trees.
When you’re out, see if you can identify any on your daily walk, this is a great exercise for the kids also.
The NZTree app is a handy platform to help you.
If you see a tree species you think might look good in your backyard, visit the Auckland Botanic Gardens website for expert advice about whether that species is best for your home.
Other ways to keep learning could include finding a new park to experience within the neighbourhood you haven’t tried yet.
Me Kori Tonu (Be Active)
Being active could be as simple as going for a walk.
It could be a stroll through the park down the street or it could be running around the block.
If you haven’t run in a long time a good way to start is to run for short distances – perhaps from one tree to the next and then walk between the next two before running again.
Before you head out the door, work out a loop you can walk in your local park and then work up to running the loop.
Also, have a look at AKL Paths to find new ways to explore your neighbourhood and local area.
Alternatively check out what the Pools and Leisure team are doing with at-home workouts to help you stay active during COVID-19.
While this may seem hard to do in self-isolation it isn’t impossible.
The point is to create a generous and thankful heart.
A simple thing like taking a photo of your walk is all it could be and then sharing that with someone you care about or with friends.
Some things that are fun to share are photos of sunrises or sunsets, flowers, a part of the local park you’ve just discovered.
It can be a great way to share your day with family and friends and chat online making that “connection”.
Me Aro Tonu (Take Notice)
Mindfulness is about being present where you are.
It can be as simple as being aware of the sights and sounds around you.
Was that a piwakawaka (fantail) flittering through the trees ahead? Are the branches swaying in the gentle breeze that is blowing? Stop, take a breather for five while you're out and listen to what's around you.
All of the five ways to well-being can be done in our local parks.
It is a great way to stay healthy and enjoy those unexplored local gems we never knew existed within walking distance of our homes.
More ways for well-being online
If you are finding these wellbeing practices helpful or if you can’t get down to your local park, check out some of these great resources from Lynda.com. These courses are designed to assist you in managing your wellbeing and can easily be done at home using your library membership:
Mindfulness Practices 2h 3min
Mindful Meditations for Work and Life 1h 27 min
Managing Anxiety in the Workplace 1h 9 min
Learn at your own pace, drop in and do a bit, come back when you have time.
Haven't got a library membership? Sign up for an Auckland Libraries eMembership. It takes a couple of easy steps and can be done entirely from home.
All these practices are easy and can be done anywhere.
If they are helping you now, consider continuing with them as the country drops down through the alert levels. They don’t have to only be used in a challenging time but can help you build up your well-being.