One thing that’s been clear this past year is that spending time with nature, outdoors is essential for our wellbeing. GP’s are great at prescribing anti-depressants in the past but there is now a backlash against a ‘medicated society’. Whilst I respect everyone’s choice to take medication, sometimes it can save someone’s life, I also like to think there are other ways to manage our mental health and nature can a good starting point.
Is it time to look closely at the natural world as a solution to the nation’s growing levels of anxiety? Do we all need to connect more with nature? The health benefits of being in touch with nature are well documented. Lower anxiety and stress levels can all be benefits of being in touch with nature and just allowing ourselves to be free sometimes. The key to relaxation is trying to stop the stress and anxiety from building up in the first place and to try and manage our lives naturally.
Food can nurture us
In our everyday lives we can be removed from nature. Food is a good example. How many of us really think about where our food comes from and how it’s produced? Try to eat as naturally as you possibly can, your body and mind will feel the benefits and good food has a proven link to lifting our moods. You could even do a bit of research into foraging to find out what you can eat from the wild and incorporate some foraging into your nature walks.
Try stripping our lives right back
At a base level, we are all part of nature. We might live in centrally heated houses, drive around in metal cans (cars!) and spend our lives attached to our phones but it wasn’t always that way, we were all a more integrated part of nature in the past.
So, in a bid to tackle anxiety and rising levels of mental health issues why don’t we all try a bit of rewilding, in the hope that we may all find a bit of inner calmness.
A good start is to allocate one day a week when you leave your mobile phone at home. Yes, that’s right, don’t use your phone for one whole day. I’ve been doing this, and it does get easier the more you do it. I appreciate that this isn’t possible for some of us if we are emergency contacts for elderly relatives, for example. But for the rest of us, why not try it for a day and chart how you feel.
Work it baby
Another great way to get in touch with nature and take some physical activity is to go on a long walk in the country. The feeling of being outdoors and seeing a field of green in front of you can be the most amazing feeling. Taking a walk in the country can inspire us, cold wild water swimming has been proven to boost white blood cells as well as our endorphin levels and just taking an hour a day to get outside can provide enormous benefits for our mental health.Being in touch with nature can help relaxation. Why not take some time to meditate when you’re outside. Just find a piece of grass, sit down and empty your mind. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, why not try some wild swimming. It’s cold but it will bring your mind right back into focus and there are massive physical and mental values to wild swimming.
Being out in nature can also help some of us to process events from our days or weeks. It can help us to process stress in our lives. Whilst it's nice to be on our own, sometimes this isn't always possible so it's also good to talk, talking is underrated. There can be enormous benefits from speaking to someone or listening to others. In life in general we don’t listen enough to others and it's getting worse. Active listening is a great skill to have. Try just sitting there and listening to people and be amazed at what you hear, really hear.
So why not try getting closer to nature, take your foot off the pedal and just ease yourself into a slower pace, even if it’s just for one day a week. There have been some benefits of the lockdown, appreciating nature is one of them and let’s see if we can keep this going and all reap the benefits for our mental health. Happy hiking xx