Not only are the outdoors beautiful but they can also have a positive impact on our mental health.
When our mental health is good, we’re more able to tackle life’s challenges and feel emotionally able enough to look after ourselves, and the people and things, we care about. Within this blog post, we’re exploring the science behind how nature supports our mental health and some fun ways you can explore the outdoors.
The Sunshine Has Many Benefits
Who doesn’t like the sunshine? Even if you’re not a big fan of the heat, simply sitting out in the garden can be a real mood booster. Vitamin D, otherwise known as the “Sunshine Vitamin” is produced when our skin is directly exposed to sunlight and has several important functions for our body including, absorbing calcium, and ensuring we have a healthy immune system.
Vitamin D also plays a big role in regulating mood and fighting depression. In a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, it was found that people who received Vitamin D supplements who had depression noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
However, even on cloudy days, don’t forget the sun cream as UV rays can still penetrate through clouds to your skin.
Mindfulness, Your Brain and Nature
Mindfulness can help to improve our mental well-being by being present in the world around us instead of getting consumed by our own thoughts. Practising mindfulness in nature is one of the best ways to get started, as you don’t have the typical distractions you would find in a built-up location.
According to the Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance, Dr Jason Strauss, you should spend at least 20-30 minutes of your time outdoors three days a week and ensure that you make it a part of your regular routine to help to ground us and forget about the worries of our bustling lives.
By leaving our urban environments and the buzz of busy populated areas to spend time in nature, it helps us to reset and focus on practising our mindfulness. Some growing research argues that spending 90 minutes walking in nature results in lower activity in our pre-frontal cortex which is a part of the brain that’s most active when we’re ruminating (which means when we’re repeatedly focusing on negative thoughts).
Being in Nature Forces You to Move Your Body
As you’re probably aware, exercise can release chemicals into our bodies that help to improve our mood. Of course, if you’re dealing with any form of mental health issue, it can be hard to just “get up and go for a walk”.
However, on the days when life is a bit more manageable it’s worth pushing yourself to take a short stroll it may take a few times to get used to it, – especially if you suffer from anxiety – but we can assure you it is possible and therapeutic for your mind.
We’re not saying that taking a walk in nature is a complete cure, but it may provide you with the freedom to just be with your own thoughts and give you the ability to process some of the things that are weighing on your mind.
4 Fun Ways You Can Explore the Outdoors
If you’re thinking about getting outdoors but want to try something other than going for a walk, we’ve put together some unique methods you can use to connect with nature.
Outdoor Swimming Boosts Mental Wellbeing
Throughout the UK, there are many locations you can try outdoor swimming but before we list the benefits, there are some important safety tips outlined by Outdoor Swimmer you need to be aware of if you’re thinking about trying this:
Think before you swim by checking entry, exit points, currents, and tides.
Don’t drink alcohol and swim,
Swim with others that know the area,
Don’t jump in and remember to enter the water slowly to prevent “cold water shock”,
Let people know what you’re doing and wear brightly coloured clothing,
If you find yourself struggling, the key thing to remember is: FLOAT to LIVE.
However, once you’ve got the safety aspect down, there are plenty of benefits that you can enjoy. Firstly, you’ll enjoy a rush of endorphins which help us to feel euphoric and peaceful. Secondly, the physical activity involved can help to reduce blood pressure, increase immunity levels, and help to build mental resilience. Additionally, swimming is a low impact activity, which means it’s friendly for those who suffer from joint problems.
Geocaching can Add an Exciting Thrill to Walking
If you don’t find walking exciting, you could also try Geocaching. Geocaching involves looking for hidden items in random outdoor locations all around the world, and all you’ll need to get started is your smartphone with GPS enabled. Plus, the best part is, that you don’t need to liv