Curiously, it’s the little things that make such a tremendous difference to my mental health. One cold, wintry day I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by the grip of depression. Storm clouds were brewing and the icy air hinted at possible snow. I could feel the dark clouds imploding on my mood. I knew I had to get outside if I was to stand a chance of lifting my mood.
I crawled out of bed and haphazardly threw on some clothes. My legs felt as if they were made of lead. The relentless voice of depression told me “it’s all too much, just open the curtains”. Every day when I open the curtains, I see the lovely natural landscape of the Grand Union canal. I live on a narrow-boat so I’m literally immersed in a watery realm of wild Nature.
On that day, I decided I wasn’t going to let depression win this particular battle. Having recently written about how the lack of natural light can exacerbate depression, I wanted to give myself a chance.
On went the layers of winter woollies, scarf, beanie and overcoat. As I opened my front door the crisp crackle of air almost took my breath away. I remembered my heart wish to feel better and inwardly told myself, “it’s okay, I’m just going to take it one step at a time”.
I didn’t know where I was going. The vague thought of walking to my local grocery store gave me a sense of purpose.
How being in Nature, or Eco-therapy, Benefits Mental Health
The mood-boosting benefits of my time outside has been confirmed by various studies. The mental health charity Mind, suggests spending time nature can benefit those with mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
Walking in the crisp morning air, I soon found the meandering path had became a portal – into a whole new awareness.
The green space around me was humming with life.
Opening to the beauty all around me, I felt buoyant as if a wave of calm lifted me out of the doldrums. I reminded myself that even though depression fatigue can make it difficult to get outside, it’s a battle worth fighting.
According to the mental health charity, Mind, the positive effects of being in nature can:
- improve your mood
- reduce feelings of stress or anger
- help you take time out and feel more relaxed
- improve your physical health
- improve your confidence and self-esteem
- help you be more active
- help you make new connections
- provide peer support.
Source: Mind, how Nature can benefit my mental health
How an Encounter with a Bumblebee gave me a Rest from Depression
Walking along the path, I noticed a little “buggle”. Looking closer, I discovered to my delight it was a beautiful bumblebee. I crouched down to take a closer look, “Hello, Sweet Friend”. But alas, the little creature was struggling.
My delight at finding this perfect little being quickly turned to concern. It was rare to see a bumblebee at this time of year. Perhaps the recent bout of sunshine had confused her, luring her out of her winter snug.
The bumblebee seemed to be slowly heaving herself, each tiny step seemed momentous. I took a deep breath. She was exposed and vulnerable on the path. Suddenly, my mind became very anxious. I worried about what might happen to the little bumblebee. It was a visceral moment, I felt my depression immediately fade into the immediacy of the situation.
A bright yellow dandelion flower caught my gaze. I plucked the sunny bloom and placed it next to her. Slowly and with great deliberation she made her move towards the flower. I marveled at her little legs. She too seemed a little shaky on her feet. But she persevered and was soon resting in the indented hollow of the dandelion flower.
My thoughts then turned to what to do next. I gently placed her little flower snug into the undergrowth. My mind was skipping ahead now. It was cold and while her energy seemed to be picking up, I didn’t want to leave her there. But I couldn’t imagine carrying her home on the flower.
Being just moments away from the grocery store, I decided to buy a container so I could safely retrieve her. I secured her little flower bloom where the bumblebee could rest in the safety and warmth of some undergrowth.
Excitedly, I carried through with my plan and sure enough, when I returned she was right where I left her. Poor darling, the cold had really knocked her about.
I crouched down and ever so gently placed the dandelion flower she was resting on into the little bowl.
With my attention focused on the care of the little bumblebee, I was no longer ruminating about my depression. The encounter with the bumblebee had interrupted the thought-stream. For a tiny second, I thought I noticed a little movement in her tired limbs. Nature was holding us close.
On my return home my first priority was to make her as comfortable as possible. I deliberated about giving her sugar water, but the little flowers seemed to be making a tremendous difference to her energy levels.
I decided to go outside in the fading light to search for more yellow dandelion flowers.
Hurriedly I returned home with a small bunch of dandelion flowers. Throughout the evening I checked in on her. Delighted at her progress, I marveled as she crawled from flower to flower. Her energy was definitely picking up.
Just before I went to bed, I went to check in on her and was dismayed to find her flower home empty. I fretted as I looked around for her.
“Bumblebee, sweet Bumblebee, where are you”, I whispered.
Then I heard it, a loud buzzing sound. She was close to me.
“Oh look, wow, she’s on your shoulder”, hubs exclaimed
I looked down and saw two cute as button little eyes looking up at me.
BUZZ… buzzzz”, she bumbled
Oh wow, I wondered what to do next.
I sensed she was trying to tell me something, so I very gently coaxed her back onto a dandelion flower and carried her outside . She immediately flew onto a nearby plant on a neighbouring narrow-boat.
It was rather cold and worried for her throughout the night. Next morning I had no problems getting out of bed, all I could think of was the little bumblebee. What a surprise to see her buzzing about the plants where I had left her. Smiling, I decided to return in a bit to check on her.
I didn’t wait long, but when I returned she was nowhere to be seen. My last memory of her was her happy buzz as she explored the neighbour’s plants. I like to think she made it.
Stay strong sweet friend, everything is alright. Take joy in the little things and let life hold you close.
What to do if you Find a Bumblebee in Distress
According to bumblebee.org if you find a bumblebee that appears poorly or too cold to fly, there’s not much that can be done. However if you find a grounded bumblebee just at the start of the first warmer days, it is probably a queen, caught out in a sudden shower or a cold spell. They go on to say if the body temperature of the bee falls below 30 oC the bumblebee cannot take off, so the best thing you can do is pick her up using a piece of paper or card, put her somewhere warmer, and feed her. When she has warmed and fed she will most likely fly off.
But what happens if you find a stranded bumble bee queen who’s simply run out of steam and needs a helping hand? According to savebees.org unseasonable weather combined with a lack of flowers, means a foraging bumble bee is only ever about 40 minutes away from starvation
Savebees.org recommend feeding the bee a mixture of honey and water 1:1 mix (50%/50%) is appropriate, and this can be achieved simply by stirring the sugar rapidly in room temperature water. Offer a small portion of this solution (just a drop or two to begin with) in a shallow lid or teaspoon placed near the bee’s head.
In the case of finding a bee in need of help in unseasonable weather, first offer sugar water (as above) and consider current conditions. It may be that the best thing to do is keep your bee overnight. In that case, it’s time to make a cozy home for your bee for the night.
I wish I’d had this information when I had my encounter with the bumblebee. I’m happy knowing I did the best I could for that little bumblebee – I connected with her struggle and, for a little while, depression faded into the background.
If we aren’t already, I’d love to connect and learn more about what challenges you face, what moves and inspires you. Would love to know if you’ve had a similar experience in Nature! Please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights by leaving a comment below