When we first hear about the 100 Streets Challenge by Support in Mind Scotland, most of us think of the urban environment, including the buildings and houses we may see when doing it. However, fewer of us think of it as a chance to engage with nature, as seems at odds with the natural world. As someone who routinely uses nature for their mental health, I am going to show you this is possible and that you can have fun while doing so.

One of my favourite things to do when walking streets is to engage with nature in a mindful way. I found that by focusing on nature I am not anxious of what I am walking to, and I'm able to focus on the present and not what may have triggered my depression that morning. What follows are easy to do and do not need any training or specialist knowledge.

Take in the flowers & greenery 

As I walk, I look in the gardens of the houses I pass and look for plants of every colour of the rainbow. For example, bluebells and cherry blossom are everywhere right now, as well as tulips and dandelions. Some colours will be easier to spot than others. You do not need to be a professor of botany to do this. However, if you fancy making it a bit geekier, there is a wildflower hour on social media, normally Sundays, and you could take photographs of the flowers that you see when walking and share them with others. Plants also have distinctive leaf shapes, which you can find pictures of with a quick internet search and could try to find five to eight different shapes during your walk. There are also different flower shapes, which you could do similar. Perhaps you could create your own botanical treasure hunt to go alongside your street hunt!

Look out for birds & butterflies

Something many of us have noticed with the lockdowns due to COVID-19 is the birds that sing and fly around us. I often keep my monocular in my bag when out walking, to see and maybe identify what I can hear. There are also apps available that will tell you what it is if would rather use your smartphone. Equally, the RSPB website has a bird spotter’s sheet you could print off and take on your 100 Streets Challenge yourself to mark off those you see as you mark off your streets. This could equally be done with butterflies; for example, I have seen several peacock butterflies during my own 100 Streets Challenge this year.

Engage with all five senses

Tree hugging is just for hippies…right!? Actually, the answer is no. Forest bathing from Japan has been something that has really helped me with the lockdowns and can be adapted to an urban walk too. Forest bathing is essentially a way to engage with and observe nature while boosting mental health and wellbeing. There are trees we will encounter on the streets that we can use for urban forest bathing. Find a tree, give it a hug if you want and take a few deep breaths, then stop, stand, or sit. Then consider five things: what can you see, what can you hear, what can you feel, what can you smell, and what can you taste? Do not feel rushed to count all five, perhaps choose to find five things you see then four things you hear, etc. Equally, do not feel it has to be just nature things that you use. It could be you see a coffee shop and smell their fresh roasted coffee, but equally you feel the tree beside you and touch its bark thinking how does it feel? Try being like a child seeing the tree for the first time, really look and touch it, or think how you would describe it to an alien!

Nature is everywhere around us if we take the time to look for it. The 100 Streets Challenge is not only a fun way to explore the urban world we live in, but also the natural world. So why not give it a try this year?

Thank you to Fi for writing this blog for us, we will definitely be incorporating these tips into our next walk! 

If you'd like to find out more about taking part in the 100 Streets Challenge, visit our website www.100streetschallenge.com