We’ve talked about the obvious health benefits of the great outdoors many times here at GetOutside, and whilst being out in nature works wonders for our physical health and fitness, its positive effects on the mind are pretty incredible, too.
World Mental Health Day is on the 10th October 2018, and this year, the World Federation for Mental Health have chosen the theme of Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World, where they aim to bring attention to the issues our youth and young adults are facing in the world today and begin the conversation around what they need in order to grow up healthy, happy and resilient.
There is certainly no shortage of scientific evidence to support claims that getting outside can result in enhanced mental wellbeing. Known to reduce anxiety, help with depression and even increase productivity and focus, nature can lift your mood and relieve the stress and strains of modern life.
Here are just a few ways that getting outside can positively impact your mental health...
Reduced anxiety and stress
There’s no denying that being outside is a powerful stress-reliever, whether walking to work, taking a break in the garden, or heading out for a country hike. Mind UK suggest ecotherapy as a technique to manage mental health problems – a range of outdoor activities ranging from gardening to cycling through woodland, the programmes are said to improve a range of mental health issues though doing outdoor activities in nature.
Natural sounds and green environments have been linked with relaxation for hundreds of years, and new research carried out by researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School revealed that nature sounds alone are associated with an increase in parasympathetic response - the one that helps the body to relax.
Improved concentration and focus
If you’re used to working in an office environment, you may experience something called ‘mental fatigue’ from time to time.
Studies have found that as well as eliciting feelings of awe which give you a mental boost, the great outdoors in all its beauty is ‘restorative’, meaning that a walk outside can restore your waning attention and increase your focus.
A fresh perspective
Unsurprisingly, the amount of time we now spend in front of screens has been widely associated with depression and stress. It’s not unusual to feel completely overwhelmed by deadlines, to-do lists and daily pressures. Taking some time to explore nature can help put everything back into perspective so you can regain a sense of control.
If you live in an urban environment, it’s easy to forget just how amazing the outdoors can be. Reconnecting with the great outdoors can really help to rekindle your love for nature whilst you ‘unplug’ and take a break from the stresses that technology can bring with them.
Just a few minutes outside can make a world of difference.
Despite all of these amazing health benefits, we don’t all take the opportunity to get outside as much as we should. You may be wondering how you can make getting outside part of your everyday routine, or not sure if you can find an outdoor activity that you actually enjoy enough to turn it into a ritual.
Here are just a few of our ideas…
Try using less public transport
Of course, it may not always be an option, but when possible, boost your mood and save some money at the same time by walking or riding your bike instead of using public transport.
You’ll surprise yourself at how much better you’ll feel for it.
Walk a dog
The regular commitment of walking a dog is a great way of exercising whilst getting a daily dose of nature. If you don’t have a dog of your own, friends and neighbours may be all too happy for the offer.
Start a new hobby
With so many outdoor hobbies available, there’s bound to be one to suit everyone. Try your hand at cycling, orienteering or running, or if you’d rather opt for something a little less active, why not dabble with some nature photography?
We have plenty of beginners guides which are sure to inspire you!
Camp underneath the stars
If you live in an urban area, putting a camping trip in your diary won’t just give you a retreat to look forward to, but sleeping underneath the stars and reconnecting with nature will do wonders for your stress levels too.
Check out our camping guide.
Explore your local area
You don’t have to go far from home to explore the great outdoors! Regardless of where you are, walking or cycling around your local neighbourhood isn’t just a great way to get outside and let off some steam, it’s also an easy way to exercise.
Check out our adventures page and search for your location to discover trails near you, or have a look at OS maps to find and create local routes.
Whether you head outside for World Mental Health Day, or aim to make it part of your everyday life, have a look at our selection of guides for beginners and advanced explorers alike!