First Steps ED

News How nature helps my mental health

How nature helps my mental health

News How nature helps my mental health

How nature helps my mental health

If ever there was a time to feel grateful for nature, it’s now.

If it wasn’t for being able to walk outdoors, breathe in the fresh air and feel the sunshine on my face I don’t know how I’d have dealt with lockdown. Embracing nature has been a saviour. 

Being outside has long been championed to reduce anxiety and boost mood, and many mental health advocates recommend it to help people feel better. It’s been proven to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate and encourages physical activity which, when done in moderation, is really good for us. 

For me, it makes all the difference. It’s a brief escape from my daily stresses that forces me to appreciate the beauty all around and put things into perspective. I love it. 

There are a great many reasons to get outdoors and become one with nature, and I’ve listed the following as just a few of my personal favourites:

Reset your outlook

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been worrying about something and going outside for a walk has lessened the problem. It’s acted as a pleasant distraction and readjusted my mind frame to allow me to view it differently and put it into perspective. 

It could have been breathing in fresh air, appreciating the scenery or moving my body – perhaps a combination of all three, but I’ve returned to the original concern and found that it’s loosened its grip. 

Boost serotonin and endorphins

Exposure to sunlight is said to increase the brain's release of a hormone called serotonin which is associated with boosting mood and helping you feel calm and focused. Similarly breathing fresh air can raise the amount of oxygen in your brain, which in turn also increases the levels of serotonin and positively alters your mood. 

Meanwhile engaging in outdoor exercise, such as hiking, running and cycling enhances the production of endorphins – a chemical produced by the body to relieve stress.  A completely free and accessible way to make yourself feel better. 

Increase Vitamin D 

When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D – a vital nutrient to enhance bone and muscle health and boost your immune system. 

It’s been well documented that patients with Covid-19 possessing high levels of vitamin D in their systems have fought the virus more successfully than those lacking it, so it’s important to keep up your intake! 

Sun exposure is thought to be the best way to increase vitamin D levels because very few food and drink supplements contain significant amounts, making getting outside even more important. 

  

Escape the daily grind 

I’m working from home and it can get very monotonous sitting in my house most days and nights. Ensuring I get that lunchbreak outdoors and a post-work walk is essential to lift my mood and get me away from my screens. 

It’s also important to move and avoid being static for too long and to me there’s nothing better than walking amongst the trees, flowers and birds to get me away from the mundane and reset my mind. 

Appreciate nature’s beauty

When the technological world gets too intense and complex, I love nothing more than surrounding myself in natures simplistic beauty and escaping it all. 

Sometimes my problems and anxieties feel overwhelming and far bigger than I am, but then I spend time in a beautiful place and I get the perspective I desperately need. 

The intricacies of a flower’s petals, a pretty blossom tree, hills and peaks or rivers and reservoirs…I just love it! It takes me away to a special place where I see a world outside of my worries and feel much freer. 

Nurture something to life 

As well as appreciating what already exists, I love channelling my efforts into creating something new. 

I spent much of lockdown growing sunflower seeds while my friend started her own vegetable patch and herb garden and we enjoyed it so much. It gave us an additional sense of purpose and felt like we’d nurtured something that either looked or tasted lovely. It was like such a positive and worthwhile use of time, I really recommend it. 

Hopefully you can get outdoors this week to celebrate Mental Health Week 2021 and the topic of nature. Why not see if it improves your mood and how it helps you to change your outlook on the situations you find yourselves in. 

G x

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