Mental health is a growing concern in the UK, with one in six experiencing a mental health problem each week. Mental health is rightfully receiving increased attention and awareness as employers seek to lighten the load on workers, and conversation around the issue leads friends and family to talk more openly about their struggles.
Managing mental health on a personal level can remain difficult, even with increased awareness. But one resource is abundant and criminally underrated: the great outdoors. With the onset of warmer weather, several relatively low-effort outdoor activities emerge to help improve mental wellbeing – and here are just three.
Gardening is a quintessential pastime in the UK; many of us will have fond memories of verdant back-garden paradises well-maintained by doting grandparents or of a childhood spent knee-deep in mud helping our parents pull weeds. The therapeutic effect of gardening is not to be underestimated, and dedicating some time to cultivating new life in your front and back garden can work wonders for getting outside of your head for a while.
Gardening also presents you with the opportunity to yield real results from your work by planting fruit and veg. You could start with a simple patch at the foot of your garden, but investing a little further can work through all seasons; polytunnels allow you to grow year-round and grow crops that might not otherwise fare so well in the British climate. There’s little more rewarding than the first bite into a home-grown cherry tomato.
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a concept imported from Japan, where it was popularized in the 1980s as a form of natural therapy. Practicing forest bathing couldn’t be simpler: leave your smartphone and watch at home or in your car, and take an hour or two to drink in your nearest forest or woodland environment. The act becomes a form of mindfulness, as you focus on the environment’s unique sights, sounds, and smells – with nothing else to distract you. The experience is a grounding one, as anxieties melt away in place of the boundless nature right in front of you.
If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or even a mild case of low self-esteem, it can be easy to convince yourself that you do not make much of a difference. One sure-fire way to put that harmful self-opinion to rest and put you more in touch with the healing powers of nature is to volunteer with a local environmental group. In helping to rewild an area of land, you can put yourself more in touch with your surroundings and also in touch with like-minded people in the process.
Try some of these outdoor activities and see how they improve your well-being.
Featured Image by silviarita from Pixabay