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Get Outside to boost your Mental Health

updated for lockdown!

Study after study shows that time spent outdoors is not only beneficial for our physical health but is also great for our Mental Health – a double win!

The interesting thing about most of this research is that it’s not big dramatic challenges like scaling a mountain or running a marathon that work best – its simple everyday activities that are accessible to nearly everyone.

We try and run all of our sessions outdoors for a reason – people engage more and always report a better experience – so I thought I’d write up a top 5 things you can do to give yourself a boost…

  • Go for a walk….Every Day

Just head out whatever. This is important for lots of reasons – exercise, a change of scene, you’re proving to yourself that you can. You’re making time for yourself – starting to prioritise yourself and your wellbeing is fundamental to making yourself resilient and healthy.

Contrary to popular belief it isn’t the first step that’s the toughest – it’s the keeping going. But when you do the benefits actually compound – so lots of little walks are much better for you than one long walk. And yes – in the UK it might rain – a cheap umbrella will keep you dry – and you’ll feel like a hero for going anyway.

 

  • Notice something new.

I spend a huge amount of time outdoors – and yet there is always something new to notice. And each time I notice a ‘new to me’ thing I feel a little more connected to my environment – I also feel a sense of achievement. And as I connect to the external world a bit more I’m able to disconnect from some of the internal ‘noise’ a bit more too. These tiny lichens are a great example – they’re present all year round (there are 1700 species in the UK) and yet most people never notice them!

 

  • Sit & Listen

You don’t have to physically push yourself – and anywhere outside that is mostly a natural environment works – so a park a local field, a wood – but once you’ve found a quiet spot to sit spend some time listening to the world outside – really listen, concentrate, what can you hear? There’s usually much more than people think. Bird song, the differences in it, the wind in trees, the sounds of moving water – the sound of rain on that umbrella. Silence – possibly the most important sound of all – really focus on it, enjoy it, let it work its magic on you. Personally I also like to listen out for the occasional sounds of man – a passing car, a distant plane, the jogger that ran past – and acknowledge how transient they are, how nature and the real world continues long after they’re past.

 

  • Beginnings and Endings.

For everybody it often feels like the tough times won’t end – the covid pandemic and lockdown has quite possibly intensified that for many – but its not true. One of the best ways I know to appreciate this is to make the odd (I like my bed!) effort to see the start and end of the day – fortunately this time of year makes that relatively comfortable! – Photographers will always tell you that the best light is found around sunrise and sunset – the low sun makes the world seem magical – I find it the perfect time to give thanks for what’s to come and to accept what’s been.

 

  • Walk and Talk

We’re allowed to walk with one person not from our household in the (late 2020) lockdown – but if you’ve a large family then this works just as well with one of them. Set some time aside to really talk and connect with one person a day – it can even be a stranger. Knowing you’ve each put that time aside – much like our first step, adds a real value – conveys a real worth. I find in a therapeutic setting people often engage more outdoors – often find it easier to talk about how they’re feeling – they often listen better as well. Try it.

 

Summary

We’ll each find our own slightly unique twist – I’ve friends who collect leaves to identify at home, I know people who collect pebbles to make art – but each of them say that as well as the physical exercise they find time spent in nature recharges them mentally – maybe its time you gave it a go?