Stopping to smell the roses

Gillespie Park

There is a lot of evidence that being in nature, such as a park, improves our mental health and wellbeing and can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. It can also help boost immune systems, encourage physical activity and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as asthma, and can combat loneliness. Parks are an excellent place to be active, which cuts the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, bowel, breast and womb cancer, type 2 diabetes and other health conditions. 

In celebration of World Mental Health Day, we spoke to Islington local Nadia (not her real name) about what she gets from visiting her park

I do a weekly walking and running session in a local park for service users of the Camden and Islington NHS and I’ve been to more than 50!

The sessions really give me a reason to go out of the house and walk faster than my usual pace. I can in theory do this on my own, but in practice I need some kind of outside motivation, and some kind of structure. It’s also an opportunity to do an activity with other people, and chat with people I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.

I like being surrounded by greenery. Looking at trees, grass, flowers make me feel better, or at least prevents me from feeling worse.

Traditional meditation or mindfulness techniques like focusing on the breath don’t work for me, so being in a quiet patch of nature is as close as I get to meditating.

I like listening to nature sounds (the wind through the trees, the chirping of birds, the buzzing of insects, the flow or splash of water), watching the clouds on a blue sky transform and change shapes, and smelling the flowers. I often take “stop and smell the roses” very literally.

It gives me joy on good days, and at least a measure of peace on days when joy isn’t achievable.

To find out more about the mental health support available in Islington, visit the mental health page of the council website.

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