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Senate House Library

Weather Notes: how the weather and the natural world support our wellbeing

Date

Written by
Emma Fitzpatrick, Serial and Digital Resources Coordinator

Emma Fitzpatrick takes a look at a selection of items from the SHL Wellbeing Collection which reveal the ways that weather and the natural world can help us to support our sense of wellbeing.

In recent years, much has been written about the connection between spending time in nature and an increased sense of wellbeing. A review of recent studies on nature exposure and health, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found evidence for an association between exposure to nature and improvement in cognitive function, blood pressure, mental health and sleep. Weather is often overlooked as a way that we can enjoy and interact with nature. After all, weather is an important and ever changing part of the natural world and for better or worse, we all experience the changing weather on a daily basis.

Last year we added a section on nature and wellbeing to the Senate House Library Wellbeing Collection. The Weather Notes exhibition and the A Thousand Words for Weather installation, both currently taking place in Senate House Library, have made me reflect on how much interacting with the natural world can help us to support our mental health. I thought this was a good opportunity to take a closer look at some of the resources on nature and wellbeing which can be found in the Senate House Library Wellbeing Collection.

The covers of two books: 'Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital Age' and 'Turning: lessons from swimming in Berlin's lakes'

A closer look at some of items from the nature and wellbeing section of the Senate House Library Wellbeing Collection

Nature and wellbeing in the digital age : how to feel better without logging off / Sue Thomas.

Nature and wellbeing in the digital age presents an interesting idea about the relationship between technology and wellbeing. Digital technologies are often presented as dangerous to our mental wellbeing, but Thomas asks what if this is not true? What if digital technologies can actually be used to help improve our sense of wellbeing by using technology to bring us closer to nature? There is much in Thomas’ approach to combining the digital and the natural worlds which connects with the A Thousand Words For Weather installation at Senate House Library. Many of the projects that Thompson discussed focus on bringing the outside inside via the use of digital technologies just as the A Thousand Words For Weather installation does. Of course, Thomas is keen to stress the importance of balance in our use of technology but she presents some compelling arguments for us to see the positive possibilities of the incredible technology that many of us now have access to. Nature and wellbeing in the digital age also contains 50 tips and experiments which you can try to improve you tech/nature balance and support your wellbeing.

Turning : lessons from swimming Berlin's lakes / Jessica J. Lee.

At the age of 28 Jessica J. Lee was living alone in Berlin, suffering from depression and struggling with a broken heart. As Lee puts in in her book, “as I was retreating from the deep end of a depression, I surfaced with the bizarre notion that the solution to my problems lay in swimming.” Turning follows Lee as she swims in 52 of the lakes around Berlin over the course of a year. Swimming through all the seasons and in all weathers. Lee is realistic about the difficulties of swimming outdoors year round but her writing also shows just how beautiful and profound the experience of watching the weather and the seasons change around you can be. As we move through the dark days of Winter, this book offers a wonderful example of how we can find ways to keep interacting with nature to support our wellbeing even in the colder months. Jessica J. Lee is one of the artists who collaborated on the A Thousand Words For Weather sonic art installation at Senate House Library. Her book can be found in the personal stories section of the SHL Wellbeing Collection on the 4th floor of Senate House Library.

The covers of two books: 'Losing Eden' and 'Finding Mindfulness in Nature'

Finding mindfulness in nature : simple meditation practices to connect with the natural world / Dr Nina Smiley with David Harp.

Finding mindfulness in nature explores how a mindfulness practice which incorporates nature can help readers to feel calmer and more centred. This book offers practical mindfulness based exercises based on inspirational quotes about nature and the natural world. One of these exercises encourages the reader to focus on the quote “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Readers are then encouraged to reflect on the idea that rain is one of many things in life which we cannot change. Smiley and Harp suggest that this is an example of nature offering us the chance to let go of negative thoughts and be present in the moment, embracing the chance to practice mindfulness. The mindfulness exercises offered in this book can be practiced outside, in nature, or at home. This book is a great place to start if you would like to interact more with nature to support your sense of wellbeing. This is also a good book for someone who would like to try mindfulness exercises for this first time.

Losing Eden : why our minds need the wild / Lucy Jones.

Losing Eden is the perfect book for anyone who is interested in learning more about the science behind how and why the natural world has such a positive effect on the human body and mind. Jones begins by writing about how time spent in nature helped her to recover from her own struggles with addiction. She then goes on to look at the many ways that nature can help humans to feel better and reviews of some of the resent research investigating why nature has such a profound effect on human health. Losing Eden also offers a powerful illustration of the great challenges that the natural world is currently facing including the threats of climate change, habitat loss and the resulting loss of biodiversity. Jones asks important questions about how the loss of green spaces is effecting our mental health. Are we, without realising, losing something which is vital to our mental and physical health? There is no easy answer to this question but Jones’ work encourages us to engage more with the natural world and advocate for it, for our own good as much as for the good of the plants and animals which share our world.

Find out more

If you would like to see all of the items from the nature and wellbeing section of the Senate House Library Wellbeing Collection or you would like to explore the collection further, you can find more information on our SHL Wellbeing Collection website. We are continuing to build this collection and are regularly adding new items. If you would like to recommend a book which you think we should add to this collection or if you have any comments about the collection which you would like to share with us, you can get in touch using our feedback form or by emailing shl.wellbeing@london.ac.uk.