Dr Kellas is the Nature-based Mental Healthcare and Green Spaces Representative for the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In a recent interview (link) for BBC Radio 4 by the assistant Editor of the Spectator, Isabel Hardman, he outlines the imperative of using nature not only to help build a sustainable mental health service but:
‘the most important thing people can do is recognise that our natural environment [and our] natural inner state. Biologically we came from the natural world [and] its bizarre to think that we can ever recover our mental health while we are still in a technical, highly technological urban environment”
Dr Kellas states that the evidence suggests that those who are troubled with anxiety, stress and a wide range of mental health conditions benefit from going into nature. Two things happen 1) Your attention changes. Nature has the ability to restore your focus from being inward and ‘of the mind’ to external, wide focus that places you more in your physical body and 2) We remember. Deep memory can surface from earlier in ones life along with re-connecting feelings to oneself. These two qualities can help those recovering their sense of sanity, and from stress or anxiety.
Part of his role, Dr Kellas states, is to support the Royal College of Psychiatrists desire to create sustainable mental health services and that nature, using the natural environment within which to conduct therapies and self-care are not only important but could help underpin this sustainability.
In the interview he suggests that taking the therapeutic treatment out into the natural environment could assist with those who find face-to-face difficult and sitting alongside in nature or doing something in nature could allow for richer and deeper explorations. He is keen to point out that being in nature could benefit everyone and many types of mental health problem but due to the huge range of nature-based interactions available an individual approach is required. For some the benefit will be from being still, calm and mindful. Dr Kellas stated this, along with big, wild vistas was what he needs for good mental health. Others will benefit from them being more active in nature. For others it might be about socially connecting in nature and for some it will be about connecting with themselves and finding a sense of purpose.
He concludes the interview with a reflection on his own mental health, his stress and burn-out which he recovered from by going into nature – not only benefited him directly but it gave him the necessary perspective in order to see that he needed to seek help. Finally, he states:
“take seriously a walk in the woods. It can be more or less superficial. It can be a transformative pilgrimage or a therapeutic encounter. It can be as superficial or deep as anyone wants to make it”
For the full BBC Radio 4 interview click here