Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Mountains spanning for miles. Birds chirping during the morning chorus. Spring bulbs bursting through the earth. A peaceful garden nestled within a prospering city. Being in nature means a different thing for each of us, but for us all it means connecting with ourselves and truly appreciating our surroundings. 

Last year was a difficult one for people around the world. National lockdowns spelled periods of isolation, which added a huge burden to our collective mental and physical health. And when unable to escape to explore cities not our own, we became enamoured by the wonders local to ourselves. TOPdeskers around the globe stepped out of their front door and discovered new walks, woodland, places of solitude, and bird-watching hot spots! 

So, when Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 came around with a theme of nature, we just knew we had to celebrate it. We set our colleagues a challenge to head outdoors and, after taking a moment to enjoy their surroundings, take a picture and share it with us. 

In their numbers, TOPdeskers donned their walking boots, zipped up their waterproof jackets, and polished their lenses. It was hard to choose winners for the competition, but three of our colleagues truly captured the beauty of nature. Have a look… 

Jess Prankard, Inside Sales – Bridgewater Canal, Manchester

Tell us about your photo, Jess… 

“I noticed the sunshine and blue sky when I woke up and decided to drag myself out of bed for a pre-work run. Although I was slightly dreading the effort, I was so glad that I pushed through my hesitation! I was about halfway through my run and turned around to come home when I saw this beautiful scene and knew I had to take a photo. I love that it captures Bridgewater Canal with the Deansgate skyline in the background. 

I love to run beside the canal, there are so many other runners and cyclists who say hello to one another (when we can get a breath in!) – It’s a really great community.” 

What’s your favourite thing about being in nature? 

“I find it easy to be mindful in nature. I have lots of plants in my flat that I’ve collected over the years (about 13!) and they make me feel calm. I love the idea of bringing the outside in as much as possible. 

My favourite thing about nature is the way the trees and plants move in a different light or dependent on how much water they get. One of my plants droops when it hasn’t had enough water or light, it’s so dramatic! As soon as I’ve watered or moved it, it’s quickly back to its spritely self!” 

Give us your top mental health tip! 

“Limit scrolling and checking the news to a specific part of the day so that it’s intentional. I love filling in my other downtime with reading a few pages of a book instead, it really makes me feel refreshed.” 

Our relationship with nature – how much we notice, think about and appreciate our natural surroundings – is a critical factor in supporting good mental health and preventing distress. - Mental Health Foundation

Silke Macco, Functional Designer – Kaiserslautern, Germany 


Tell us about your picture, Silke… 

“I took this on the 13th of May, which is Dads’ day in Germany. My family and I decided to take a walk through the woods (a favourite pastime of ours recently). These woods contain a villa where the trail starts and/or ends. It looks like it was built somewhere in the early 1900s but restored in the last 20 years. It’s surrounded by huge open space and no direct neighbours; I would definitely say it was love at first sight! If the villa was for sale, and I had enough money, I would definitely buy it!” 

What’s your favourite thing about being in nature? 

“There are a lot of things I love about nature. The sight is on top of my list. I never get tired of looking and marvelling at how colourful nature can get and how it can signalise different things. Or watching squirrels run up and down trees. Second, the sounds. There is something soothing about listening to birds chirping, the winds rushing through leaves, or a woodpecker chiselling nest holes. Third, the feeling. The squelch of earth and the crunch of leaves under my boots. Now put all these together and imagine just focusing on these things. This leaves me with little-to-no space for worries and problems.” 

Give us your top mental health tip! 

“Whenever it gets too much, try focusing on something else. If you can get an ample amount of space between yourself and what is causing you stress, do so. Sometimes, a change in scenery is all it takes.” 

Ashley Hough, Event Manager – Preston, UK

Tell us about your photo, Ashley… 

“I took this picture in the garden of my parent’s house as the sun was setting over the field that evening. I was letting the dog out and saw how beautiful the sky looked and couldn’t resist taking a picture. This photo just represents the beauty of nature and the world we live in that we sometimes don’t notice with our hectic lifestyles, it’s so important to appreciate what is right in front of you.” 

What’s your favourite thing about being in nature? 

“I would say the sky is my favourite thing about nature, no matter the season, weather, time of the day, I look up and just see the beauty and feel at peace. I also love how rare it is that the sky will ever look the same, whether that is down to colour, shades, clouds, stars, it will always be somewhat different and I just love that.” 

Give us your top mental health tip! 

“Get outside and go for a walk before and after work (even if it’s just for 15 minutes or around the block), it gives you the time you need to really clear your head and feel refreshed. I always end with one thing I am grateful to have seen on that walk.” 

Thank you to all the TOPdeskers who submitted photo entries for the competition, collectively, we truly connected with nature and captured its beauty. To see more TOPdesk pictures, follow us on Instagram. And to find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, visit the Mental Health Foundation.