This year the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is nature. Many of you reading this are already active, love the outdoors and appreciate the benefits it brings. Even small contacts with nature can help – 45% of people reported being in green spaces was vital for their mental health during the pandemic. At our most fragile point, we rediscovered our fundamental human need to connect with nature.Get involved with Mental Health Awareness Week
So this week we’re suggesting that we share that joy by each taking one person, who wouldn’t normally do so, into nature for a while. It may be a reluctant teenager, a frazzled parent or just someone who’s out of the habit of being outdoors. There’s no need to scale a mountain or master mountain biking – just enjoy a few hours (or more if you like!!) together. And if you take a photo while you’re at it, please post on social media using #friendsofFINDRA and #connectwithnature so we can share it and inspire others.
Inspirational Short Film – Back on the Bike
Photographer and cyclist Sam Dugon helped her mum Marjie rediscover her love for the outdoors on a cycling trip through Wales – and it perfectly sums up the power of time spent in nature (note: have tissues ready!)
Hey Sam, Marjie – tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
Sam: Hey! I’m based in Brecon after moving up from my hometown of Swansea at the end of 2019. I’m a professional action sports photographer and have just taken my first leap into filmmaking with this recent film with my mum.
Marjie: Hi, I’m Marjie and I live in Swansea, South Wales. After working in the civil service for 25 years, I’m now retired and looking forward to spending more time exploring in my campervan and with my bicycle.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
Sam: The outdoors has always been a part of my life, but it’s only in recent years that I realised just how much it improves my state of mind. As a kid my mum and I would always be down the beach, taking our little beach tents down with a sketchbook and enough snacks to sustain a full day of swimming and lazing in the sun. As I approached my mid-teens cycling became my outlet and has been a gateway into other mountain sports such as trail running, outdoor swimming and hiking.
Marjie: The outdoors has been (on and off) as a part of my life, for, well, all my life. From local adventures with my father when I was a kid, to cycling in my 20’s and 30’s, to swimming and cycling as a family when Sam was young. It’s always been there, but I feel I am coming to appreciate it more as I rediscover it.
What has been your favourite trip or adventure?
Sam: The one I did with my mum – but its tied in 1st place with a trip to Iceland for the film On Her Terms. I just fell in love with the landscape and Iceland has continued to mesmerise me ever since, it’s so raw, I LOVE it! Maybe I’ll be able to drag my mum over there at some point!
Marjie: My favourite adventure so far has to be the trip I did recently with Sam to North Wales. We cycled around Llangollen, Bala, Harlech and Porthmadog. It was lovely to be with my daughter and it was great to be outdoors and in a place that I’d never been before.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
Sam: Can you ask me this when I’ve got an answer? Honestly, I don’t think I ever find that right balance. Some weeks I’ll spend every day on the bike and others I’ll spend all week behind the computer.
Marjie: I’m retired so I’ve a lot more time and I haven’t got the demands of work and bringing up a family that I’ve had in the past. I can go whenever the feeling takes me really: I just get on my bike and go cycling. I live on the coastal path so if I feel brave I’ll go for a dip in the sea. I also live near a park and have two King Charles spaniels to walk with.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
Sam: Weirdly no. I think as a photographer I’ve been drawn more and more to the wonderful colours and light that I get to see as I venture out. I’ve come across a number of people that have helped and enabled me to get outside, but that need to get outdoors has just always been there.
Marjie: My father inspired me with a love of the outdoors at an early age. He would regularly take me to the beach and we would go out walking together. Later in life I then met up with Sam’s father and we would go around the parks, swimming, cycling together. And then – after a bit of a lull where I was bringing up a family, looking after a sick relative and battling illness – it has been Sam, my daughter, who’s encouraged me and inspired me to get back in touch with the outdoors.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Sam: Yes, yes, a million times yes! I get irritable if I’ve been inside too long, to the point where the last thing I want to do is go outside! But I’ve come to realise that getting outside on the days I feel least like it, are the times when I most need it.
Marjie: Yes, being outside has a positive mental effect on my wellbeing. I have to say though that sometimes its very hard to actually get motivated to get out, but when I am out I think “Why didn’t I do this sooner/earlier?!” I enjoy looking at the trees, noticing the colours, textures, sounds, and just having the peace and tranquility instead of being stuck in four walls.
What is it about cycling specifically that you love?
Sam: The breeze that comes just when you need it after a warm climb, the distance you can cover, the things you can see off the beaten track, the people you’ll come across, the mental and physical challenges you face that you never thought you could overcome. The list just goes on.
Marjie: It’s the feeling of independence, and the aloneness that I like about it. The freedom to just go whenever I want, wherever I want: I just like to be by myself when I’m out cycling. I don’t worry about things when I’m on the bike – I’m probably more focused and it pulls my mind into a better dimension. I feel free, I feel active, I feel able.
When did you discover FINDRA?
Sam: I first came across FINDRA a few years ago up at Tweedlove Festival. I loved their support for their local community and their earthy designs of the kit!
Marjie: This year! I’ve only just come across the brand as my daughter has been educating me on the clothes to be wearing for cycling.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Sam: Something that’s really helping me at the moment is that no one cares. I know at first that can seem quite demoralising but let me explain it a little bit more. I mean it in the context of being worried about trying something new but feeling self-conscious or concerned that you don’t look the right way for the sport you want to do, will stand out like a sore thumb, or won’t be very good. All those thoughts are only things you’re thinking. In reality no one else cares because everyone else is thinking the same about themselves. You do you.
Marjie: I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to follow things through. For example, if you start something and you think “oh gosh, this isn’t going to be what I want” or “It’s not going to turn out the way I want”, just follow it through. If it isn’t what you want then you can go and try something else, but what I find very often is when you do follow something through it comes back to what you want anyway. Just don’t throw the rope in too soon, I’d say.
What is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more?
Sam: The hardest thing is getting out of the front door. When you’re outside you’ll stop getting in your own way because you’ll be so distracted by everything you’re seeing, appreciating, learning and doing.
Marjie: The key thing I’d say to anyone else who’s struggling is just to get out and motivation will follow. Don’t worry what you look like, just shove on comfy clothes, forget about the makeup and just get out. I promise you, within minutes you will feel 100% better.
Thank you both for taking the time to contribute to this week’s post!
For more information about Sam’s work or Mental Health Awareness week, follow these links:
MARJIE’S RECIPE OF THE WEEK
A Spanish fish stew made with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onions, white wine and parsley. It’s a lovely light dish and evokes the feelings of being outdoors and summertime.
Visit BBC Food for a version of this classic dish.
MARJIE’S MUSIC OF THE WEEK
Black Magic Woman by Santana
Santana is one of my favourite bands and specifically songs like Black Magic Woman and Evil Ways. I like their lively Cuban beat – it makes me feel like dancing and reminds me of good memories of being with friends, and being outdoors.
SAM’S BOOK OF THE WEEK
Quirkology by Richard Wiseman
Professor Richard Wiseman uncovers the secret ingredients of charisma, explores how our personalities are shaped by when we are born and examines why people usually miss the obvious signs of their partner’s infidelity.
SAM’S PODCAST OF THE WEEK
Reasons to Be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd
Reasons to be Cheerful brings Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd together with smart thinkers and inspiring campaigners from around the world. Each week, Ed and Geoff unearth bold ideas to create a better society.
Links to all episodes of the podcast can be found on the Reasons to be Cheerful website.
SAM’S MUSIC OF THE WEEK
Soul by Rival Sons
Rival Sons always seem to release music that perfectly reflects where I am in my life, and more so what I need in my life. Their recent Feral Roots album coincided with my own need to ‘re-wild’ myself and reconnect with the amazing world around us.
But the first song that really resonated with me was Soul, seeing the way the singer moved with the music and the meaning he put in the lyrics really brought out my confidence to just be me. If you ever have the opportunity to see them live, do it – you won’t regret it.