Updated May 2023
National Mental Health Awareness Week starts on May 15th, and the theme this year is anxiety.
There’s no doubt that everyday life can often be hectic and stressful. But, with research suggesting that a nature walk can decrease anxiety and worry – as well as helping to increase working memory – it looks like getting out into the great outdoors might be one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing.
And even just a 10-minute stroll can help. According to a 2020 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, 10 minutes spent “sitting or walking in a diverse array of natural settings, significantly and positively impacted defined psychological and physiological markers of mental well-being.”
That’s certainly welcome news for us here at YuMOVE. Not only is our office surrounded by gorgeous countryside – which we take full advantage of with regular lunchtime walks – but most of us are dog owners, and there’s nothing we love more than getting out into the fresh air with our pets.
Let’s take a closer look at how nature benefits our mental health, and how to find more time to be in the great outdoors…
Why is nature good for our mental health?
• It’s a basic human instinct to seek out the likes of water and trees (thank our ancestors), so when we find those kinds of scenes, we feel happy and calm
• Outdoor activity boosts the body’s oxygen flow, which increases energy levels and raises the heart rate – easing stress and tension
• Light exposure helps to regulate our sleep cycle, making it easier to get a good night’s kip. It also boosts Vitamin D, a clinically proven mood-lifter
• Being among nature allows us to reset. No screens, no distractions – it helps clear our heads and improves focus
How to become more connected
Connecting with nature may be easier said than done, especially if you live in an urban environment and are kept busy by work and the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Still, there are always steps to take. Here are a few suggestions…
You don’t need to order those hiking boots and Nordic walking poles immediately! Simply start by setting aside some time every day to get out into a green space.
Commit to spending more time outside by swapping what you’d usually do for something more outdoorsy. Instead of taking the kids to indoor soft play, opt for a picnic, a woodland stroll, or a trip to the park. That weekend in a luxury hotel? How about a spot of glamping that allows you to sleep under the stars?
Take up a new hobby
Gardening, hiking, horse riding, landscape photography, bird watching, foraging and trail running – these are just a few examples of outdoor activities to choose from. Try out a new hobby that gets you into the heart of nature, and you could discover a lifelong passion!
If you’re struggling
Remember, if you’re struggling with your mental health, there’s always someone to turn to. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member, you can reach out to reputable organisations such as Mind and Mental Health UK.
Taking your pet for a stroll in nature can be a wonderful way of supporting your wellbeing and theirs. For pets who could use a bit of extra help in reducing anxiety, consider YuMOVE Calming Care – developed for nervous, stressed, and senior pets.