In today’s article we take a look at health benefits of the great outdoors and how the past 12 months has highlighted how important being kind to ourselves is.

As lockdown eases, we find ourselves feeling optimistic, as we once again start to cautiously travel further afield, reconnecting in outdoor spaces with loved ones we haven’t seen for a while.

Although like many of us, we have been counting down the days for when we can once again meet up, there is always a flip side to the coin. In that, we have to recognise that going back to work and re-socialising will undoubtedly increase anxiety in many of us. 

So, when we talk about mental health what do we mean?

We all have mental health and it is as important as our physical health. When our mental health is good, we feel emotionally well, able to look after ourselves and able to engage with the things that we care about.

When we struggle with our mental health, we can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, which can make it difficult to manage in our daily lives.

A 2018 survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that almost three quarters (74%) of people have at some point felt so stressed they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. For some of us these difficulties may come and go, and for others, they may be more long-lasting. What we do know is, the pandemic has exacerbated this in many of us.

So, how can we help ourselves? As normal life starts to resume, our advice is to start a routine that you feel you can continue. Signing up to, Walk 1000 miles can help provide structure and support for an activity you can do anywhere.

Photo credit: Country Walking

Walking provides peace of mind, positivity, better perspective – and most of all just massively enjoyable. Walking isn’t just about the physical benefits, it will also do wonders for your mental wellbeing.

Walking has been proven to lift your mood, boost self-esteem and improve sleep quality. It’s a well-known fatigue buster, while also reducing stress hormones and levels of anxiety. The charity Healthy Minds says physically active people have a 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed, and that staying active while suffering from mental illness can help you recover more quickly.

The benefits for older walkers are even greater, with walking known to improve cognitive function, memory, attention levels and reduce the risk of dementia. The benefits were so impressive that, in October 2018, doctors in Scotland’s Shetland Islands started prescribing walking to patients. As part of the ‘Nature Prescriptions’ project, 10 surgeries across the Shetlands archipelago are now authorised to treat illnesses including stress with rambles, beach walks and birdwatching trips around the islands.

As well as the obvious physical benefits of regular exercise, NHS Scotland believes that getting out into nature and connecting with local surroundings will lead to improved mental health. This new thinking was backed up by a 2018 study from Urban Mind, which found that a single exposure to nature can lift your mood for up to seven hours.

So essentially, a morning dog walk or stroll to work will keep you feeling happy all day! If you are after some encouragement in a supporting group, why not sign up to Walk 1000 Miles, which has been a lifeline for many over the pandemic.

Spending time in green spaces or bringing nature into your everyday life has so many benefits. For example, doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have lots of positive effects.

It can:

  • improve your mood
  • reduce feelings of stress or anger
  • help you take time out and feel more relaxed
  • improve your physical health
  • improve your confidence and self-esteem
  • help you be more active

Over the past few years, Country Walking has been inundated with wonderful stories from #walk1000milers who’ve trounced bad moods, grown in confidence, stopped worrying about the little things in life and become happier and more determined. They’ve told us the challenge has kept them motivated, helped combat depression, given them the courage to try new things, boosted positivity and provided a massive feeling of achievement. Walking is also an excellent way to meet new people and can be great for your social life. If you’re looking for people to share your challenge with, search for locally organised health walks, contact your local Ramblers group, or join our Facebook group and start chatting to like-minded people.

If you would like to discover more, why not check out the 100 seconds from 1000-milers video , which highlight how Walk a 1000 miles can benefit you  

Most importantly, just go for a walk and enjoy yourself.

Forget about work, money and all the other stresses of modern life. Just put one foot in front of the other for an hour a day, listen to the birds, marvel at your local landscape, watch the sunset, and have a great time!

References

1 Mental Health Foundation. Stress: Are we coping? Research Report. London, UK; 2018.

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