Over the last year, many of us have found peace when connecting with nature, with the twittering of birds and the feeling of fresh air breaking up the seemingly endless monotony of lockdowns.

So much so, that this mental health awareness week, the theme is connecting with nature. Research has shown throughout the pandemic that 45% of people found green spaces had been vital for their mental health, while going for walks outside was a top coping strategy for many.

In the wake of other options now presenting themselves, such as going to bars, restaurants, or even the cinema, mental health professionals are reminding people to continue embracing the great outdoors.

One Tyne Valley therapist is even using nature to help clients ‘open up’ and feel more at ease than they would in a therapist’s office.

Karen Pollock, gender sexuality and relationship diverse psychotherapist at Counselling in Northumberland, offered walking therapy long before the pandemic, but many have found the benefits of combining their daily exercise with a therapy session over the last year.

Karen said: “Your problems won’t be solved by a walk in the woods, but it can make it easier to deal with things.

“We’re all really busy, so if you can combine a walk with a therapy session, it’s a weight off for people who are already trying to cram too much into their day to start with.

"For some people, it’s also a little more ‘normal’. People are less anxious and open up more easily in the open air.

For Karen, who has a bank of routes near her home in Stocksfield where she practises walking therapy, having such beautiful surroundings helps.

She says: “I’m very lucky to live in the little piece of heaven that is the Tyne Valley and it’s kept me sane over the last year.

"When doing walking therapy, I like to bring stuff in – for example we’ll talk about a field of lambs or a river, and it becomes part of the counselling session.”

She continues: "However, you don’t need that to connect with nature – you could visit your local park. People in cities have had it tough over the last year, but you don’t need to travel miles from home to feel the benefits of nature.”

Mental Health Awareness Week lasts from May 10 – 16. You can find out more about Karen Pollock and Counselling in Northumberland at https://counsellinginnorthumberland.com/