Nature and mental health
Benefits of the great outdoors
Spending quality time with nature is great for your mental health, it can help reduce stress, balance your mood and help you feel more positive.
Being outside not only helps our mental health, but it also helps boost our immune system as we increase our vitamin D.
Looking after our mental health is not only good for us now, it can also help us build our resilience to better deal with and manage difficult situations in the future.
Here are some tips to look after your mental health and connect with nature:
- Get active outdoors – Exercise is not only good for our physical health, it’s good for our mental health too. Exercising outside helps us connect with nature and release endorphins which can help to improve our mood and give us more energy. You should aim to do around 30 minutes of exercise per day, whether that’s walking or something that really gets the heart pumping like signing up for a coach-led tennis session, joining a Park Run, or setting your own pace at a free outdoor gym – find out more.
- Create a garden that connects with nature – Spend some time planning and creating a space in your garden that helps you connect with nature. Whether that’s growing plants, trees, fruits and vegetables or attracting more wildlife into your garden. Having a peaceful outdoor space to enjoy is a great way to wind down and relax. And, if you don’t have a garden, you could look to plant salad leaves or herbs in a window box or look into getting a shared allotment.
- Working outdoors – If you can, try and use outdoor spaces for work – being out in the open air and green spaces can help improve and inspire our creativity. Walk and talk meetings are great especially when we work on projects that need some extra thought, and you’ll soon clock up your steps without realising. If your job role doesn’t allow you to work outdoors, make sure to get outside in the fresh air on your break.
- Bring the outdoors in – Add some plants and greenery to your home and work environment if you can, or why not grow your own! You can also choose pictures or photos which focus on a natural environment – including places that bring happy memories. Another way to bring the outdoors in is listening to outdoor sounds – sounds from the sea, the rainforest or the beach in the comfort of your home (great if the weather changes your plans). Calm has a great selection – that you can try for free, these can also help you get a better night’s sleep too.
- Try mindfulness – Practicing deep breathing exercises are proven to help clear our minds. You don’t have to be spiritual to try mindfulness and meditation. If you’re new to meditation, there are many great apps out there like Headspace and Calm to get you started.
Find somewhere to either sit or lie down in your garden, local park or woods – wherever you feel comfortable and observe the clouds or the stars for 2-3 minutes. Start by becoming more aware of your breathing, take notice of your breath in and breath out. And simply observe what you’re seeing, hearing and the sensations you have in your body. Be mindful of your thoughts, try not to do anything with them and let them float away.
Spending more time outdoors not only connects us with nature, but also with ourselves and that can only be a good thing. Don’t worry if some ideas don’t feel right for you – see if you can find some that do, or adapt one to suit you.
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