connecting with nature is good for your mind
Whenua is the foundation for the other parts of wellbeing in Whare Tapa Whā. Nature is alive with the same spiritual force or mauri that lives in human beings. It gives us life and energy- and if we don’t take care of it, our wellbeing suffers.
Whatever our perspective on the world, research shows that spending time in nature makes us calmer, happier and mentally healthier.
Discover what's on your doorstep
Boosting your mood can be as easy as grabbing your sneakers, your bike or your surf board and spending a few hours outside.
You don’t have to go far- there are beautiful paths for walking, cycling and tramping all over the country. At the Department of Conservation’s website, you can see what’s on offer in your local area. From an hour-long stroll around a nature reserve to a ten-day tramp through the Southern Fiords, there’s something for everyone!
If you’re after an adventure, you could walk part of Te Araroa, a 3,000 km path that connects the whole of New Zealand. The trail runs from Cape Reinga in the North Island to the deepest reaches of the South, through some of the islands’ most amazing scenery. You can do walks that take a few hours to a couple of days- or even the whole thing!
If you want to take nature at a faster pace, you could try Nga Haerenga- a network of 22 cycle trails all over New Zealand.
Take care of your whenua
Whenua isn’t only about what nature can do for us; just as important is looking after our world for the people, plants and animals who come next.
Forest and Bird Youth is a network of young people who work together to protect New Zealand’s wildlife. There are local groups all over the country, and heaps of activities you could get involved in.
The Department of Conservation website has more information about volunteering opportunities, and ideas for conservation activities.
Want to work in conservation?
You could make whenua your full-time job.
Wellington’s ecosanctuary Zealandia has a great online resource where you can learn what life as a conservation worker is like, and what qualifications and training could help you get your first role.
There are lots of ways you can do your bit to protect nature and connect with what’s around you at the same time.
You can grow flowers on your windowsill to feed the bees and bugs; buy local veggies that don’t come wrapped in plastic; take time to walk to school or work in the morning!
You can find ideas for fun, easy ways to make your lifestyle friendlier to the planet at the Future Living Skills website.
Notice what's around you
Whenua doesn’t have to mean making huge changes to your life- just noticing the world around you can be enough to calm your mind and boost your mood. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand lists “taking notice” as one of the five most important things you can do to improve your wellbeing.
This could mean just sitting outside for a few minutes a day and focusing on what you can see, hear and feel. It could mean going for a walk without your phone or headphones, taking photos of pretty views and putting them up in your flat, or learning the Te Reo or Latin names of plants and birds. Get more ideas at the Mental Health Foundation website.
Mindfulness is all about noticing. It’s a practice of giving all your attention to the moment you’re in, and can be helpful in dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.