World Mental Health Day: How heading outdoors can boost your mood
Spending time outside can be great for your mental health.
Natural Resources Wales health advisor, Steven Meaden, explains how heading outdoors can boost your mood.
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As we move into autumn with the weather turning colder and the days getting shorter, it’s really important for us all to look after our mental wellbeing.
Did you know your mental health can be positively affected by your environment? And it’s not just about physical activity.
Sometimes it is hard to know where to start, so here are some ways that spending time outdoors in the natural environment can improve your mental health and wellbeing…
Find the green and feel serene
There are many benefits to being around plants and trees. Green spaces provide an element of non-threatening stimuli, relaxing and calming a certain part of your nervous system responsible for reducing stress.
If you’re not sure where your local green spaces are, you can find a woodland or National Nature Reserve near you with our places to visit page. And we have lots of information on how to visit us safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Not everyone has immediate access to parks and reserves but there may be other opportunities within your local authority to get outside and explore.
Get some daylight for a good night’s sleep
Daylight exposure (not just sun) can help regulate two important chemicals in your brain which are fundamental for sleep – melatonin and serotonin.
Try to spend some time during the day exposed to daylight – this could mean walking one stop further for the bus, or taking regular breaks from your workspace.
Getting outside every day will increase your vitamin D level and help your immune system too.
Stay active if you can
Exercise boosts your mood. Studies show that brisk walking can release feel-good endorphins and reduce stress and anxiety.
Start slowly if you need to. Don’t beat yourself up about not feeling the motivation you may usually feel at other times.
Think about trying other forms of activity or movement that you might not have done before to stop yourself from comparing with old habits.
Explore from your front door
A change of environment can be a really good way of de-stressing and forgetting about some of the things that may be weighing on your mind.
You don’t need to go far – a walk in your local park can provide natural stress-relief. The less urban noise you’re surrounded by, the better.
If you’re working from home, making time to get outside can help you switch off and help set a boundary between work and home life.
Get help if you need it
But, let’s be real – mental health problems aren’t just seasonal. Regardless of who you are, or what season it is, difficulties with mood, anxiety and much more can impact any of us, anytime.
There are amazing services available for people who feel like they need support for anything mental health related. Time to Change provide a list of organisations that offer support for people in crisis or those with mental health concerns.