“Getting outdoors doesn’t have to mean going on a massive hike in the mountains, or travelling up to the highlands of Scotland – it can mean simply exploring a local green space you’ve never been to before with your kids and treating it like a big adventure.” We spoke to Liv Bolton, the writer and host of the book and podcast “The Outdoors Fix“.
In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, finding time to connect with nature might seem like a luxury, but Liv Bolton, believes it is a necessity. Having experienced first-hand the transformative power of the outdoors on her mental health, Liv shares insights and practical tips on how you can bring more outdoor moments into your life.
Scientific research supports the idea that spending time in nature positively affects mental health. Liv’s own journey reveals how the outdoors became her sanctuary during a period of anxiety and stress. A transformative 3-month hike in New Zealand opened her eyes to the calming influence of nature, teaching her to be present, breathe deeply, and appreciate the world around her.
“I wish I’d known about the impact the outdoors can have on my mental health much earlier on in my life“. When Liv returned to the UK after her 3-month hike in New Zealand, she decided to continue to spend time in nature as it had a positive effect on her mental health:
“Since I’ve been back in the UK, I’ve tried to incorporate much more of the outdoors into my every day and around my normal life. From getting out for 15-minute walks in the morning before work and starting a walking group with friends, to learning to paddle board, wild swim, rock climb and trail run, and interviewing people outdoors for my podcast, The Outdoors Fix. All of these things have helped me manage my anxiety and stress much better, and I’m so grateful that I found this outlet.”
Liv has had the privilege of meeting inspiring individuals through her podcast, each sharing their mental health journey with the outdoors. Their stories underscore the diverse ways nature can be a powerful ally in our mental well-being.
“Outdoors cook and author Harrison Ward, known as Fell Foodie, told me how hiking in the Lake District was a catalyst for helping him manage his depression. And mountain leader Becky Angell shared with me how going hiking and being in nature improved her mental health – nature and scenery distracts her from worries and when out on walks, she doesn’t check messages or emails. She also credits the outdoors for meeting close friends and making her much happier than before she was outdoorsy.”
During Liv’s journey, she also crossed paths with Nic Hardy (@adventurer.nic on Instagram), a former full-time IT manager from Sheffield with no prior inclination towards outdoor activities. However, after being introduced to hiking in the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia by a colleague, Nic experienced a transformative moment that ignited a passion for hillwalking. This newfound interest led her to prioritise weekend hill walks, eventually establishing a walking group where she connected with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts and engaged in wild camping adventures in the Lake District.
Over the years, Nic accomplished remarkable feats, conquering all 214 Wainwright fells in the Lake District, scaling Scotland’s 282 Munros (mountains over 3,000ft), and becoming an ambassador for Komoot, the route planning app. Transitioning from a conventional five-day workweek to a two-day job, Nic relocated to the Lake District, dedicating numerous days each week to exploring the hills.
Liv, impressed by Nic’s inspiring journey, interviewed her for both her podcast and book, The Outdoors Fix. Nic sums up the impact that the outdoors has had on her life, stating, “I didn’t hate my life before, but it wasn’t giving me anything near what it does now.”
For those juggling full-time jobs and parenting, Liv suggests following outdoor enthusiasts on social media, like Jen and Sim Benson, Jamie Neill and Zahrah Mahmood (also known as the Hillwalking Hijabi); Liv believes these are all great people to follow on social media and to be inspired by. Joining walking communities such as Blaze Trails can also provide support and motivation. Even simple activities like making a den in the woods for a family picnic can turn into cherished outdoor moments.
“With work, family commitments and chores, it’s often not easy at all. I certainly struggle with it at times and have to remind myself of all the tips I have learnt over the years. It also can be harder depending on where you live. But even by incorporating a few small outdoors moments a week, wherever you are, you will start to feel the benefits, and who knows where it will lead you!”
“It’s often so tempting to cosy up on the sofa, but I promise you, getting outside at these times of year will make you feel really good. That cold feeling on my face makes me feel alive!”
Staying motivated during colder months may seem challenging, but Liv emphasises the refreshing feeling of the cold on your face. Early morning walks to catch the sunrise and weekend outings wrapped up in warm layers can turn the dark and cold seasons into opportunities for joy and connection with nature. Liv loves going for an early walk for 15 or 20 minutes in the morning and catching the sunrise at this time of year. The sun rises roughly between 7am and 8am throughout autumn and winter so it’s not excruciatingly early – and seeing the beautiful colours in that golden hour brings her a lot of joy in the dark months.
Liv makes the most of the daylight at the weekend and spends as much time outside as she can; “As long as I’m wrapped up with a hat, warm coat, thick socks, gloves and layers, the cold doesn’t put me off!”
Liv shares practical tips for those looking to incorporate more outdoor time into their lives.
Even in the busiest of schedules, finding 15 minutes for a daily walk can work wonders. Pay attention to the details – the rustle of leaves, the chirping of birds, the changing seasons. This simple practice can help shift your focus away from daily stresses and bring a sense of calm.
Harness the power of community by joining a walking group. Whether it’s Adventuress in the Wild, Black Girls Hike, the Ramblers, Love Her Wild, Adventure Queens, or Blaze Trails, these groups offer not only a chance to explore nature but also the company of like-minded individuals.
Motivate yourself by setting achievable outdoor challenges. Whether it’s a weekly run, a brisk walk, or an outdoor swim, having a goal can turn the outdoors into an exciting playground. Rory Southworth’s approach of spending time outside between 5-9pm, at least four nights a week, is a great example.
Adventure might be closer than you think. Use your phone’s maps to discover local green spaces you have never explored before. Pack a flask of coffee, venture into the unknown, and see what hidden gems your surroundings hold. You might be surprised by the beauty just a short walk away.
Take a cue from photographers and time your outdoor excursions during the golden hour – the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset. The soft, golden light and long shadows can transform even familiar landscapes, making your outdoor experiences truly magical and a great opportunity to capture photos.
Technology can enhance your outdoor experience. Download nature apps like iNaturalist and RSPB My Nature to identify plants and birds. This not only adds an educational element to your outings but also deepens your connection to the natural world. This is great for getting kids involved too!
Treat your outdoor activities with the same importance as any other commitment. Book adventures into your diary, whether it’s a weekend hike, a picnic in the park, or a day exploring a nearby nature reserve. Prioritise these outings to ensure they become a regular part of your routine.
Bringing nature to you can be as simple as installing a bird feeder. Watching birds visit your backyard not only connects you with wildlife but also provides an opportunity to learn more about different bird species.
Each season brings its own unique beauty. Whether it’s the vibrant colours of autumn, the tranquillity of a snowy landscape, or the blossoms of spring, make an effort to appreciate and experience the outdoors in all its seasonal glory.
The outdoors has the potential to transform lives. Take inspiration from individuals like Nic Hardy, who shifted from a non-outdoorsy lifestyle to climbing mountains and becoming an ambassador for outdoor apps. Let the outdoors be a source of positive change in your own life.
Getting outdoors may not always be easy, but Liv Bolton’s tips and real-life stories show that even small moments in nature can have a significant impact on mental well-being. By integrating these tips into your daily life, you can start reaping the benefits of the great outdoors and, as Liv puts it, “who knows where it will lead you!”
Here at GO Outdoors, we have a passion for embracing the outdoors, and we want to inspire you to do the same, recognising the significant positive impact it can have on our mental well-being. In line with this dedication, we’ve partnered with Mind, the mental health charity, for the second consecutive year to present our Hats On For Mind campaign. When you purchase our Mind hats and flasks, 100% of the profits will be donated to the Mind charity. Come and join us in venturing outdoors and contributing essential funds to this incredible cause. Explore more and shop the hats and flasks by clicking the link below.
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