This year Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 October) comes hard on the heels of Conservation Week. Challenge your workmates to get together outdoors and let nature in to strengthen your health and wellbeing. Jo Kearns from Healthy Nature Healthy People shares how our staff let nature into their work lives.
People in teams who already enjoy nature in their work report feeling restored and invigorated. It’s a great way to work with your colleagues in a different way, and fosters kaitiaki for the places where we work. Whether it’s a team meeting outdoors or contributing to someone else’s mahi in te taiao/the natural world, taking time in nature will make you feel better when you return to your work space.
Working outdoors is a core role for many of us. On the sunny, ‘WOW-gotta-love-that-view’ days our outdoors staff are definitely the envy of office-based staff. On the days when the weather throws everything at you and you’re wet, cold and can’t see your hand in front of your face, you might envy (or not) the office bound staff. David Soper, a biodiversity monitoring ranger, frowns. “It’s amazing how clag changes things, it really messes with you. You can’t tell how far away things are, people quickly lose motivation. It gets hard.”
Having time to enjoy nature is important for everyone, including those who work outdoors. Often the restorative and recharging benefits of time outdoors are not realised during our working hours, so make some time this week to head to your happy outdoors place. Better still, take someone with you and share it.
Ranger David often comes off a 9-day trip into the hills, does a day or two in the office, then with freshly dried pack and boots heads off for a multi-day hunt, “My time in the hills is about the freedom to explore; there’s no rush, no big plan or group that I have to work with. It’s me and the quiet, it’s slow and spacious. Gives me time to connect. It recharges me.”
Pete Thomas, Ranger Biodiversity Monitoring, agrees with David, and adds “I feel no rush in natural landscapes. I’m the master of my own destiny. I’m hunting but I can appreciate the animal and the environment they’re in.” Then he gets a bit zen, “it has meditative aspects, the focus is purely on seeking and chasing the game, with no worries about the small stuff, details of life.” Now that sounds soul cleansing, doesn’t it?
If you work in an office or are desk-based, challenge your team mates to find the best team meeting location in nearby nature. Remember it doesn’t need a forest or an ocean to be valuable nature, it could be the park bench nearest the office, or a gentle walk with your team and a talking stick to solve an issue that is hard to talk about in the office.
Regionally, Community Work Days provide a great time in nature settings, to be in an open space, rejuvenating. Also, it’s a fantastic opportunity to give back to our community, meet new staff from other districts and get some serious mahi done with a big dose of laughter along the way. While other members of staff find simple way to get outdoors, Amanda Edmonds from Planning, Permissions and Land ushered her indoors team outdoors, in simple, doable ways, to enhance connections with nature and bring the benefits of being in nature into her team by improved work performance.
All of us have different ways we can access and enjoy nature. Walking in a quiet place for a meeting is popular for some. Taking a team outing, or just having a walk together instead of your coffee can be a good break from the routine. At the next team meeting get creative and come up with ways to connect the team with nature, as part of your work or enter the Mental Health Awareness Week Challenge by sharing your activities and win a $200 morning tea.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 has lots of ways to get your wellbeing, or somebody’s near you, to a better place. Check out https://www.mhaw.nz/ for great t-shirts to buy, as well as suggestions for workplace games, stories and gorgeous posters to order, free for your office.