5 Ways that Spending More Time Outdoors Can Improve Your Mental Health: Guest post by Katherine Myers

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(image: Shutterstock)

Self-care is a topic that often comes up when discussing mental health. Whilst taking a bath or reading a good book might provide a short term boost to your mood, a bit of self-care will rarely provide long-lasting improvements to your state of mind. 

Spending time in nature is one of the most effective ways of boosting your mental health. In fact, the benefits of the outdoors for your mental wellbeing have been scientifically proven in a range of different studies. Something to consider if you’ve been suffering from consistent low mood recently is whether you’ve been spending enough time outdoors. 

Especially during the winter months, it’s easy to miss the few hours of daylight whilst in the office or at school. It may not seem like a big deal, however, not getting enough sunlight exposure can be very detrimental to your mental health and over time, you will start to feel the effects. Some common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, sore bones and muscles and low mood.

Simply getting outdoors for a bit of time every day can have a profound effect on your wellbeing. Here are just some of the ways you’ll see your mental health improve by spending more time outside.

You’ll Feel More Creative

Creativity is often sparked by putting yourself in unfamiliar environments, which is the perfect excuse to get outside the next time you find yourself in a creative rut! Being in the outdoors is a great way to get away from other distractions to your creative process such as TV or social media, so you can properly focus on coming up with those brilliant ideas! In fact, one scientific study showed that being immersed in nature can boost your creative problem-solving abilities by 50%. 

Better Concentration

If you are someone who tends to have your head in the clouds, getting outdoors is a brilliant way to improve your concentration. Science has shown that the effects of a natural environment are huge for concentration. In fact, being in a park for as little as 20 minutes has been proven to help ADHD children focus. 

If you’re ever struggling to concentration on studying or work, maybe consider taking your work outside and see whether it’s easier to get your head down. Not only will there be fewer distractions, but the calming effect of your environment will put you in a more positive state of mind.

Better Memory

Our brains are very receptive to the natural environment, making it easier for us to memorise information. One scientific study showed that participants in a memory assessment who had been in nature prior to taking the test performed 20% better than those who hadn’t. The next time you have a big test coming up or need to memorise something important, spending some time outdoors could be a great way to focus your mind. You’ll be surprised by how much it helps!

Reduces Stress Levels

Being in a stressful environment will increase your blood pressure, anxiety and stress whilst being in a peaceful environment ha the reverse effect. For this reason, a natural setting such as a forest, the beach or park is one of the best places to relax because it completely removes you from the distractions of modern society. Being in nature lowers your blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. Studies have shown that even just a view of nature is often linked to lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction. 

Regular Sleeping Pattern

We need natural light and darkness to regulate our circadian rhythm (natural waking and sleeping patterns). Using our phones and computers exposes us to artificial light components that interfere with our ability to sleep. Getting a good night of sleep is critical for your mental health and factors such as stress can quickly make it difficult to maintain a good sleeping pattern. Spending time in nature is the best way to reset your natural circadian rhythm and get a better night of sleep.

If you’ve been feeling down or anxious, it can be even more difficult than normal to find the motivation to get outside. However, here are a few ways that you can fit some time in nature into your schedule without making too much effort. We promise it will make a huge difference!

  • Take a walk on your lunch break
  • Get out for a run in the morning
  • Go hiking with friends
  • Take a book to your local park
  • Try and walk to work or school if you can
  • Try and spend your day in a room with lots of natural light or large windows 
  • Try and incorporate more plants into your living space

 

This guest post was written by freelance writer Katherine Myers. 

How Walking and Audiobooks have helped my Anxiety and Depression: Guest blog by Tan at BooknerdTan

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(image: BetaNews)

For most of my life I have had relatively good mental health and considering the rather…’turbulent’ upbringing I had I’d say that was pretty much a miracle. All came to a head in June 2018.

I was in a job that was incredibly stressful for minimum wage, I had a toxic boyfriend who did nothing but make me feel worse about myself and I had an abuser resurface into my life completely unexpectedly. All this happening at once lead to some kind of mental breakdown and I couldn’t function for around 4 months. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t go to work – I could barely eat or string a sentence together. Everything I heard was white noise, everything I saw was in slow motion and I was just completely numb.

I went to seek help with my doctor and was prescribed medication (which I am not currently taking as of the New Year) and was referred to Birmingham Healthy Minds service. This is a service which I cannot recommend enough – I was really scared of counselling after previously having a bad experience when I was younger, however I’m really glad I went ahead and gave this a go.

The best thing about this was that my counsellor was not passive (unlike my previous experience), in fact he gave me so much advice that will stay with me forever. I relied heavily on my friends during this time and they were an amazing help, but sometimes it is nice to offload some of your worries on to someone who is essentially a stranger. It allowed me to say things which I may not necessarily feel comfortable telling my family or friends.

Ever since I went and spoke to someone about my condition, I have been looking for the best ways in which to cope on a daily basis. The main way I keep my anxiety at bay is with a combination of walking and audiobooks. This has done wonders for my anxiety. I have always been a big book nerd; I read every day, manage to polish off on average 100 books a year and run my own book blog so it’s safe to say that I am a major bookworm!

I’ve constantly heard and read about exercise being an amazing coping mechanism for people dealing with depression. I have close family members who also suffer with depression and confirmed to me that exercise is one of the main things that relieves some of their symptoms. Having this information only told me one thing – get to exercising!

I live in a really pretty village so I decided to put my headphones in, pick an audiobook and walk. Walk until I couldn’t feel my legs. 3 hours later I came home and was elated. Body numb, blood pumping and feeling a tiny bit more positive than when I left the house.

My anxiety got to such a point that I wasn’t able to breathe properly. I was always taking short, sharp breaths and it never felt like I was in control which exacerbated my anxiety. Walking allowed me to think about and control my breathing therefore lowering my anxiety somewhat. Combining walking and my favourite hobby (devouring books) helped me so much more than I ever expected and am so thankful for it.

I recently wrote a blog post about how audiobooks helped me control my anxiety and was overwhelmed by the response it got when I shared it on my blog. Not only by the amount of people who are dealing with anxiety themselves, but how happy they were that they found the post and are willing to try it out to see if it helps them too. It’s that kind of response that reminds me of why I love blogging and sharing my experience! I hope someone read about my experience and it was able to help them.

Every day is still a learning curve but I’m definitely getting there. Going forward, I hope that everything I have learned in the past 9 months will aid me in keeping my anxiety and depression at bay and be able to handle it as best possible when/if it arises again with a vengeance.

I am always hopeful that if I ever feel the same way again, I will be able to see the signs a lot earlier, implement the coping mechanisms I’ve acquired and nip it in the bud before it manifests even further. I hope that somehow my experience can help someone else out there cope a little better and make them realise that it is possible to come out the other end even when you’re at your darkest.

 

This guest blog was written by UK book blogger and writer Tan at https://booknerdtan.wordpress.com/