Source: Auckland Council
Parks play a very important part in our well-being as individuals and as a society.
Research from Berkeley University shows that our sense of satisfaction with life increases when we have daily interactions with nature.
Maintaining good mental well-being is especially important in a situation like we are experiencing now.
“Taking a few minutes each day to get out amongst nature and listen to a tūī sing, or watch tree branches move in the breeze is great for improving our mental health”, says Mark Bowater, Auckland Council’s Head of Parks Services.
5 ways to well-being in your local park
Knowing where to start can be hard so here are some suggestions of what to do in your local park to help maintain good mental health through self-isolation.
The Mental Health Foundation promotes five ways to well-being.
Applying these principles will help to stay grounded and cope with the pressures of self-isolation.
- Me Whakawhanaunga (Connect)
- Me Aka Tonu (Keep Learning)
- Me Kori Tonu (Be Active)
- Tukua (Give)
- Me Aro Tonu (Take Notice)
Me Whakawhanaunga (Connect)
Getting out and about is a great start for connection.
The simple practice of waving at friends, or a quick chat while maintaining the 2 metre distancing rules on your walk can give you the connection you need to tick this box.
Me Aka Tonu (Keep Learning)
Keeping the brain stimulated and challenged is great for your mental health.
Aucklands parks are full of native bush so they are a great place to learn about our New Zealand trees. When you’re out, see if you can identify any on your daily walk. This is also a great exercise for the kids.
The NZ Tree App is a handy platform to help you.
If you see a tree species you think might look good in your backyard, visit the Auckland Botanic Gardens website for expert advice about whether that species is best for your home.
Other ways to keep learning could include finding a new park to explore within your neighbourhood that you haven’t tried yet.
Me Kori Tonu (Be Active)
Being active could be as simple as going for a walk.
It could be a stroll through the park down the street or it could be running around the block. If you haven’t run in a long time a good way to start is to run for short distances – perhaps from one tree to the next and then walk between the next two before running again.
Before you head out the door, work out a loop you can walk in your local park and then work up to running the loop. Also, have a look at AKL Paths to find new ways to explore your neighbourhood and local area.
Alternatively check out what the Pools and Leisure Team is doing with at home workouts to help you stay active during lockdown.
While this may seem hard to do in self-isolation it isn’t impossible.
The point is to create a generous and thankful heart.
A simple thing like taking a photo of your walk is all it could be, and then sharing that with someone you care about.
Some things that are fun to share are photos of sunrises or sunsets, flowers, or a part of the local park you’ve just discovered.
It can be a great way to share your day with family and friends during a chat online and making that “connection”.
Me Aro Tonu (Take Notice)
Mindfulness is about being present where you are.
It can be as simple as being aware of the sights and sounds around you.
Was that a piwakawaka (fantail) flittering through the trees ahead? Are the branches swaying in the gentle breeze that is blowing? Stop, take a breather for five while you’re out and listen to what’s around you.
The five ways to well-being can all be done in our local parks.
It is a great way to stay healthy and enjoy those unexplored local gems within walking distance of our homes we never knew existed.
If you are finding these wellbeing practices helpful or if you can’t get down to your local park, check out some of these great resources from Lynda.com. These courses are designed to assist you in managing your wellbeing and can easily be done at home using your library membership:
Mindfulness Practices 2h 3min
Mindful Meditations for Work and Life 1h 27 min
Managing Anxiety in the Workplace 1h 9 min
Learn at your own pace; drop in and do a bit; come back when you have time.
Haven’t got a library membership? It takes a couple of easy steps and can be done entirely from home. Join up here.
All these practices are easy and can be done anywhere.
If they are helping you now, consider continuing with them as the country drops down through the alert levels. They don’t have to only be used in a challenging time but can help you build up your well-being.
Together we can get through this and grow into a stronger, more connected Auckland.
General messaging around using parks:
- Our parks are open for people to enjoy for exercise and general mental wellbeing. Two metre distances should be observed at all times.
- The golden rule is to stay local. Travel to your nearest park not your favourite one.
- Please stay off playgrounds, park benches and sports equipment.
- Regional park vehicle access gates are all closed and on-site facilities (like toilets and playgrounds) are closed. Barbecues and drinking fountains have been turned off.
- For some people who live next to a regional park, this may be their local exercise area
- Walk-in access to regional parks for locals arriving on foot is allowed.
- At regional parks, follow all normal dog access rules, noting that dogs are prohibited at some or required to be on-leash at regional parks.
Remember to check the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 webpage for all the latest information on the virus in New Zealand. We will also have regular updates on how alert level 3 affects council facilities on the Auckland Council Covid-19 webpage.