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  • Writer's pictureNikita Penny - Director

Mental Health & The Outdoors 🌳

There are many ways in which spending time outdoors and within nature can be beneficial and positive for our mental health. Research is happening all the time into discovering various ways the health of our bodies and minds are affected by natural environments.

For most of us, our day to day lives consist of much time spent indoors. With the Covid-19 pandemic bringing more and more people away from the office and back at home, a lot of us are even finding it's the same 4-walls we're contained in for both work and leisure.

A common issue with getting time outdoors can be due to living circumstances. Living in an urban area, a flat or apartment, no private garden, or near main roads can sometimes lead us to feel detached from the nature around us.

If you don't have greenery on your front doorstep, taking time to research where the local parks, fields, walking routes are nearby that can be travelled to, can be the beginning of finding a brilliant space for your time with nature.

So why is the outdoors great for your Mental Health?

Improve your Mood - Regular exercise has now clinically been proven to improve the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Getting outside for a 45-60 minute walk, three times a week in studies has shown a great increase in mood. If you're not someone who currently works out or have been unsure about exercising, a gentle daily walk can be a great place to start!

Less Worrying - Have you been feeling worried about something? Get outdoors and go for a walk, jog, run, or bike ride! Most people will begin to feel a reduction in worry 5-15 minutes after beginning exercise outdoors. People with anxiety disorders have benefited greatly from exercising in short and longer terms. Especially if you're able to carry out this exercising outdoors with nature, rather than in a gym.

Reducing Stress - Getting out for a walk and breathing in some fresh air is one of the best ways to reduce stress levels. The rhythmic exercise of walking has a calming effect, enabling the blood pressure to lower and decreasing heart rate, it's also proven to help reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Bonus points if you're able to walk near a river, stream, or sea, when you're out and about as being by water in particular has shown to be especially soothing!

Improve Focus and Concentration - Typically during our day to day lives we can be bombarded with notifications and distracting demands that require our attention. If you find that you're struggling to focus on tasks and your concentration becomes fatigued, research has found stepping outside to be along with nature improves our ability to restore concentration. Getting that outdoor break can enable us to focus for longer, another reason why outdoor time can be great for kids who could be struggling with their school work!

Self esteem - A study asked people to exercise whilst looking at different environments, and found that looking at pleasant nature scenes improved self-esteem more than urban scenes. If you are able to increase your self-esteem, it can assist in building up resilience for many areas of life. People who have higher self-esteem have been proven to cope better with the stresses of modern life.

Sleep better - One thing that has always proven to assist in a better sleep cycle is getting outside for walks and regular exercise. If you're able to get out for a walk in your day, especially in the late afternoon or evening, you're more likely to be able to relax before bed, improving the quality of your sleep. Getting enough sleep also improves your brain function!

When it comes to being with nature, you can find yourself feeling much more grounded, which is why it's recommended to people who are struggling with anxiety and depression. Next time you're outdoors, take a moment to really stop and ground yourself using this handy "5,4,3,2,1" grounded technique:

When you are within nature, you're also standing with history. The trees you walk by are hundreds of years old, the field you've walked through has been here long before you. Sometimes we can take comfort in zooming out of our current worry's and focusing on the world around us.

So with the outdoors being a free and quick fire way to improve your mental health...

Why not print off our calendar below and schedule some time among nature this month? 🌳

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