It’s no news that the last year has taken a toll on the mental health of the masses. 2020 and 2021, with all their lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, have weighed us all down in one way or another. That’s why, this Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s more important than ever to focus on the things that give us peace of mind, stress relief and a general sense of clarity during a mostly testing and uncertain time.
Embracing the outdoors helps with all of the above and more. Fresh air, greenery and reconnecting with nature have long been known to boost mental health… but unfortunately, what lies in sight just outside of our windows has been harder to access this past year than many of us would have liked. So, with lockdowns finally coming to an end, let’s take a look at why now is a better time than ever to make the most of the outside world once more.
The Nurturing Power of Nature
The healing properties of nature, both physically and mentally, cannot be understated. Here are just a few:
- The sun has a positive effect on both Vitamin D production and melatonin – the former being important for physical health, the latter for mental health.
- The sights and sounds of nature provide relief from over-stimulation caused by the buzz of screens and electronic devices that surround us in our homes.
- There is even a natural antidepressant in soil – Mycobacterium vaccae – which is a substance known to have the same effects as antidepressant drugs such as Prozac.
- Being outside generally reduces stress, anger, anxiety and many other negative emotions, as well as improving your self-esteem, mood and ability to relax.
But science aside, we all know just how much better something as minor as an outdoor stroll can make us feel. Unfortunately, even such a simple thing that we should all have access to has not quite been within reach for many of us since early 2020. Around 13% of UK households have no access to a garden at all, and this – paired with limitations on the amount of time we can spend outside – has resulted in living conditions that are far from ideal.
Luckily, it looks like the worst of the lockdowns are long behind us. Now it’s time for us to return to the outside world in full force (especially those of us who have been most limited from doing so in the past year) and make the most of it once again.
Making the Most of Mother Earth
Now that the countless wonderful natural sights, locations and trails outside of our homes are available to use once again, we should all take some time to appreciate them and their positive effects on our wellbeing. There are many, many ways to boost your mental health by utilising the outdoors, ranging from activities to simply enjoying your surroundings. Here are some to set you off on the right path.
Getting outside is beneficial all on its own… but if you’re looking to get a bit more exercise too, this is a great way to do both. Not only that, but discovering new trails, paths and walks is always a rewarding experience, especially in the beautiful English forests and countrysides. Nothing gets that serotonin flowing like a good, long woodland hike!
Speaking of hikes, something that makes a lengthy forest walk or hill stroll worthwhile is the stunning view at the end of the route. Sightseeing the natural wonders of our planet is a fantastic way to shake off the mental fog of being stuck indoors, and there’s nothing more clarifying than taking in the natural wonders of the world with your own two eyes.
It’s not just the sights that nature has to offer that boost mental health, but the sounds too. The wind through the trees, running streams… and, of course, the chirping of birds. So why not combine the sights and sounds of wildlife with an especially rewarding hobby? Bird watching is peaceful, meditative and relaxing; what better way is there to observe and listen to the beauty of nature around you?
Sometimes getting outside isn’t about doing anything in particular, but simply being. Sitting by a stream, resting on a park bench or finding a nice secluded spot in the countryside… often, that’s all you need. So next time you’re out and appreciating nature, just take a few minutes, breath deeply, meditate and let the peaceful setting of the outside world heal you all on its own.
Finally, if you’re not looking to venture too far from your own home, why not make the most of your garden instead? Gardening not only provides a rewarding pastime, but it also gets you outside and keeps you fit and moving too. Besides, with nature being as beautiful as it is, what’s not to love about growing and tending to a piece of it for yourself?
Do Whatever YOU Need to Do
Ultimately, it’s up to you how you choose to return to the great outdoors. Whether you want to go back out in full swing with hobbies and activities, or if you just want to take it slow and steady, it’s about what’s best for you.
Whatever you do, hopefully this article gave you some inspiration and encouraged you to make the most of nature now that we’re able to do so once more. Just remember; there’s never been a better time to put yourself first, and there are few better ways to do that than embracing the natural healing properties of the world around us.