How Does The Outdoors Benefit Your Mental Health?

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and in our opinion, making the most of the great outdoors has huge benefits on wellbeing and mental health. Here we’re going to explore those benefits and why so many of us turned to nature during the pandemic, as well as offering some top tips and inspiration for getting outdoors and how it can help boost your mood.

Our research on the mental health impacts of the pandemic showed going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45% of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health.

The Mental Health Foundation

Research has indicated that getting outside really does improve your mood. Plus, it doesn’t matter where you live, being outdoors has shown to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate which is vital to allow a boost to your mood and mental health.

How Can We Use the Outdoors to Benefit Wellbeing?

1. Nature is Accessible for Everyone

First things first, nature and the great outdoors is available to everyone – for free! Parks, forests, public footpaths and even the street where you live can be used to freely walk around and enjoy some fresh air. Take advantage of this and use the outdoors around you as much as possible.

2. Meet with Friends and Family

Meeting with others, whether it’s friends, family, work colleagues or neighbours, can really help boost your mood. Being social and spending time with these people is thought to lower stress levels, improve your mood and encourage positive behaviours. So rather than enjoying the outdoors alone, how about meeting up with others? Go on a local stroll with your family or have a picnic in the park with your friends.

3. Try a New Activity

Taking part in a new sport or activity comes with many benefits. Whether it’s football, cycling or walking, enjoying the fresh air, being part of a team and communicating with others is sure to boost your mood. Taking part in physical activity also means your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in your body, making you feel happier. Have a think of what outdoor activity or sport you could try and give it a go!

4. Soak up Some Sun

It’s not every day that we get a sunny day in the UK, so if one arrives, get yourself outside and make the most of it! Not only is it an excuse to enjoy spending time in the outdoors, but vitamin D actually comes with its own benefits too. Research has shown that vitamin D might play a significant role in regulating mood and combatting depression. However, that doesn’t mean to say that vitamin D is a cure for depression, but enjoying time in the sun may help to improve your mood, so get yourself outside and try it! And don’t forget, if you’re spending time in the sun make sure you wear sun cream and protective clothing or a hat to keep you safe.

Check out these blogs for some further inspiration to get outdoors:

Feeling Anxious About Returning to Normal?

You might be feeling anxious about the world returning to its old self – that’s completely normal! Many of us are apprehensive about the change and may be struggling to come to terms with getting back out and being around people. But don’t worry, here are some top tips on how you can deal with the change and help calm your nerves.

  • Plan Ahead

Planning your outing in advance means you have more time to prepare so you don’t feel as stressed when it comes to going out. Whether you’re off on a bike ride or going on a hike, take your time to plan the route, check what you’ll need and know where you’re going. This way, you’ll feel more organised and excited about your trip, rather than stressed.

  • Take your Time

There’s no rush! If you’re not ready for an outing just yet then don’t worry, wait until you are. Move at your own pace and plan going out when you want to. You might want to start off by doing something small such as a visiting a local park for a picnic with one friend before meeting up with more people in busier locations.

  • Avoid Big Crowds

If you’re worried about being around lots of people, then avoid it. Don’t visit places which are likely to be packed with people and instead go somewhere quieter, until you’re ready. You can avoid big crowds by avoiding peak times too – try getting up earlier to beat the rush!

  • Stay Local

Knowing you’re not far from home might make you feel more at ease. Try planning a day or afternoon out that isn’t far from you until you feel more confident traveling further.

If you’re struggling with your mental health and need some support or advice, visit the NHS website to find contacts for many health charity helplines. And remember, you’re not alone.