The great outdoors and our mental health
Coronavirus and the lockdown that we’ve been living through has changed our daily lives. Whether you’ve been furloughed, working from home, or working more than ever as a key worker, your day-to-day life was probably turned upside down around mid-March.
For lots of people, these sudden changes to everyday life brought anxiety, worry and even panic. Part of the problem was that many of us had been ignoring our mental health, soldiering on, even when regularly feeling stressed or unhappy - managing our busy schedules as best as we can, without ever prioritising our emotional health.
Then, boom. Everything exploded. We could no longer just carry on, and perhaps it wasn’t the lockdown that brought anxiety. Perhaps we’d been pushing our mental health to the back of our minds for years, and finally, it burst free. Perhaps lockdown and coronavirus, which have certainly caused worry and uncertainty, were the straw that broke the camel's back.
If you have been able to, you might have spent a fair amount of your lockdown enjoying the great outdoors. Instagram has been filled with pictures of people out walking with their families, exploring local beauty spots that they’ve never had time to enjoy before. With gyms closed, we’ve turned to walking, hiking and running in the great outdoors. With family attractions no longer an option, we’ve been taking our children on mini-adventures and scavenger hunts. Even those of us that live in usually bustling inner cities have taken the time to pound the pavements, spotting the beauty that a quieter town has to offer.
Now, things are changing once more. We are returning to work; shops are open, tourist attractions are welcoming us back. But, with only 6% of us wanting life to go back to how it was before, perhaps this is the time to make a change. To embrace the positive effects that nature and the great outdoors can have on our wellbeing, and to book camping trips instead of package holidays.
The Healing Power of Nature
We’re part of nature, we come from it, and return to it, and yet at some point, this symbiotic relationship has been lost. We’ve started to think of nature as something that belongs to us, instead of something with which we should be at one with.
It’s this oneness that perhaps gives nature its powerful healing and restorative power, key in the search for wellness. Getting back out into nature helps us to remember that the world is much bigger than us. But also, despite everything that we see in the news or read online, there is beauty to be found in even the simplest of things.
Exercise Offers an Effective Mood Boost
Exercise is a great mental health boost, releasing adrenaline and serotonin, and helping to boost your confidence. Whether you go for a short walk, a long hike, or a weekend camping, when you are outdoors, you move more. You breathe in fresh, healthy air, and you stretch your muscles. All of this is great for both your physical and mental health and can reduce stress and anxiety.
Quality Time with People Not Possessions
Being outdoors means being away from all of your stuff. Even going for a simple walk with a loved one gives you a chance to talk and connect in a way that you never could surrounded by the clutter of day to day life. Give your relationships some TLC and your mental health will thank you.
Ditch the Devices for Wellness
If we’re completely honest, most of us take our phones with us when we walk. Alone you may listen to music or an audiobook, and even with a friend, you may want to capture some snaps along the way. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you don’t walk around glued to a screen.
Getting outdoors, away from our tablets, computers, email notifications and online calendars is great for wellness. It’s freeing, almost like you are giving yourself permission to relax in a way that you can’t when there’s always something to read, send or otherwise action.
Free Your Inner Child
Being outdoors is fun! Let yourself go. Enjoy a game of football in the park or run around playing tags in the woods. Lay back, and spot shapes in the clouds, and generally enjoy simple pleasures. Freeing your inner child like this helps you to put things into perspective - and smiling never hurts.
Of course, it’s not a miracle cure. Telling someone who is struggling with their mental health to take a walk, probably won’t help them on its own. But, as part of a lifestyle which actively makes room for self-care and wellness, and teamed with devices such as talk therapy, laughter and CBD, getting out into nature can have a positive effect on your mood, your mental health, your stress levels and even your quality of life.