Walking in Nature: Steps to Improving Your Mental Health

I remember the last time I stepped into a forest. What a treat for my senses. My eyes were refreshingly greeted by the fall colours of green, red, and orange hues. The pine scent that filled the air allowed me to take deeper breaths than I had in weeks outside of nature. My body felt fully alive, and I felt an inner calm and peace that I had not experienced in weeks. The sound of the leaves rustling in the gentle breeze beckoned me to ground my feet into the soft earth underneath and each step I took tempted me to take another. This experience of being immersed in nature was healing and connected me to myself and the world around me. 

The idea of connecting with nature and immersing oneself in the forest is not a novel idea. Let’s take a walk back in time. In Japan, the term shinrin-yoku was coined in the ’80s to describe the concept of ‘forest bathing’. In the history of Native American culture, nature is integral to human living. Through decades of industrialization and urbanization, the disconnect between humans and nature has grown and in highly urbanized countries and cities like Singapore, this delicate balance with nature has been constantly challenged. With the high usage of technology, screen time has permeated and persisted in much of our daily lives. There is growing research documenting the benefits and adverse effects of screentime on mental health, and, the reality is that technology and screentime are here to stay. 

Stepping out into nature may not seem instinctive, but much can be gained through spending some time in nature. Increased exposure to nature may enrich one’s cognition, bringing about benefits such as enhanced attention, focus, and working memory. Other benefits that nature brings include boosting one’s mood and the reduction in mental distress, stress, and psychological conditions. As we feel better in our bodies, the probability that we offer kindness to others is increased, hence strengthening our interpersonal relationships. 

The great news is that while we may not have easy access to a forest, we could start with tiny steps and build them up step-by-step. The greater the exposure to nature, the greater the benefits gained. Listening to sounds of nature such as the light fall of rain, thunderstorms, or a stream of water could lighten your heart. If you have a little garden, taking small steps while tending to your plants once a day may enliven your spirits. To step up your dose of nature, brisk walking for about 2.4 hours in nature could lower the risk of depression by 25 percent. 

As Malik el Halabi says, “A walk in nature walks the soul back home.” Happy Nature Walking.


Fitzgerald, S. (2023). The secret to mindful travel? A walk in the woods. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/forest-bathing-nature-walk-health

Pearce, M., et al. (2022). Association between physical activity and risk of depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry, 79(6), 550–559.

Weir, K. (2020). Nurtured by nature. American Psychological Association, 51(3), 50. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature

Written By:
Isabelle Ong, Ph.D., LCMHCA, NCC (USA)
Clinical Mental Health Counselor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

Occupational Therapy and Adult Mental Health

In Singapore there is often the perception that Occupational Therapy is for children who are facing developmental challenges or as part of hospital-based rehabilitation for the elderly. It can certainly play an important role in these areas, but it is so much more. Occupational Therapy as a profession actually has its roots in mental health, it developed in the UK from enabling soldiers to return to meaningful life after injuries and trauma from World War 1. It then expanded to cover all areas of physical and mental health. In fact, any area where our function is affected could be improved by working with an Occupational Therapist.

We look holistically at function – what people do for work, leisure and productivity (e.g. activities of daily living, self-care, household tasks) and how the challenges they are facing affect this. The focus of Occupational Therapy in any clinical area is to assist clients to participate in daily living as independently as possible.

So, what does this look like within mental health? Here are SACAC we are looking at:

  • How low mood can impact work, leisure and home life and strategies to move forward in these areas
  • How activity can be used to improve motivation and confidence to do what is important to you in life
  • How workplace challenges and stress can be managed
  • How responsibilities like caring for a loved one impact wellbeing and mental health
  • How stress or anxiety may impact how you feel and what you do day to day
  • How activity can be utilized as a coping mechanism

    For every client there is an assessment process where we explore a wide range of holistic factors to gain a clear understanding of the challenges they are facing and what is meaningful for them.
    Factors considered include:
  1. Values, beliefs, spirituality, mental function, sensory function
  2. Physical skills (motor processing)
  3. Social interaction skills
  4. The environment or context you are functioning in
  5. Habits, routines and roles
  6. Barriers to participation in desired activities


    Perryman-Fox M, Cox DL, 2020. Occupational Therapy in the United Kingdom: Past, Present and Future. Annals of International Occupational Therapy, Vol 3, No 2.

    Written by:
    Jennie Bhangu
    Occupational Therapist
    SACAC Counselling

Often, children who have been neglected emotionally as children make these 6
lifelong mistakes

The experiences gained in one’s childhood can have a tremendous impact on one’s development and behavior later in life. In particular childhood emotional neglect can lead to a variety of potential emotional issues later in life. 

Experiencing childhood emotional neglect has a tendency to lead children to feel as if their emotions do not matter. Which may not be communicated directly, but instead can occur as a result of one’s emotional state being neglected by parental figures. Which deprives children of the necessary attention and affection they need during their development. This then manifests into an attitude of believing that one’s feelings are unimportant, which is a direct falsehood. Feelings are a crucial part of the human experience, acting as both a means of motivation and protection. Therefore, the belief that they don’t matter can have various negative impacts on a person. 

Such as labeling oneself as flawed, the absence of an emotionally charged life can lead to feelings of being isolated. In which one may feel that they lack the passion or any other quality that others around them possess. Which in reality is not true, rather it is a lack of emotional development that is hindering those qualities. Alternatively, another impact could be developing feelings of excessive responsibility for others. Whereby, one feels compelled to overly fixate on the feelings of others, in turn forgetting to focus on one’s own feelings. By choosing to place a greater focus on one’s own feelings instead, it can lead to a greater sense of self and confidence. Furthermore, viewing one’s emotions as insignificant can also potentially lead to the belief that you have to do everything by yourself. Which can result in a toxic mindset, whereby one may decline to share their feelings and instead may think that it is a sign of weakness to share their feelings. Which may only further feelings of isolation. Therefore, it is crucial to acknowledge one’s emotions and the emotional needs that may come with them. Additionally, the mentality of one’s feeling being a burden can lead to the assumption that others must therefore also view those feelings as burdensome. However, this assumption is incorrect, being able to be emotionally vulnerable with others is a key part of forming strong interpersonal relationships. In this case one might fear a return to the emotionally neglectful environment of one’s childhood, however this fear is likely to only be a fallacy and by overcoming it and embracing emotions can lead to the formation of new relationships that can aid in overcoming those feelings of isolation.  Finally, being out of touch with your emotions can lead to an attitude of emotional complacency. Whereby you might be afraid to speak your mind out of fear of emotional rejection, and will therefore conform to other’s desires while not making your own needs clear. This can also lead to one becoming out of touch with hobbies, friends, and family. Choosing to decline potential opportunities and leaving potential disputes unresolved, allowing them to fester. Thus it is crucial to understand and recognize all of these potential impacts, and work to rectify it through understanding its roots and effects on present behavior.


Kumari V. Emotional abuse and neglect: time to focus on prevention and
mental health consequences. Br J Psychiatry. 2020 Nov;217(5):597-599.

Dunn EC, Nishimi K, Gomez SH, Powers A, Bradley B. Developmental timing of trauma exposure and emotion dysregulation in adulthood: are there sensitive periods when trauma is most harmful? J Affect Disord. (2018) 227:869–77. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.10.045

Haynes E, Crouch E, Probst J, Radcliff E, Bennett K, Glover S. Exploring the association between a parent’s exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and outcomes of depression and anxiety among their children. Child Youth Serv Rev. (2020) 113:105013. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105013

Kumari V. Emotional abuse and neglect: time to focus on prevention and mental health consequences. Brit J Psychiatry. (2020) 217:1–3. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2020.154

Written by:
Leah Selakovic
SACAC Counselling