Get outside! – 3 of 5 ways to better mental health
I observe people rushing form their concrete box in their metal boxes, to more concrete boxes, where they spend all day looking at electronic boxes and rush back to their concrete box where they watch another electronic box. What I notice when I take a group of people out from their office and stand them under a tree is a complete state change. Their shoulders relax and a weight seems to lift.
We are designed to be outside in nature and I see that when I take people outside somehow they seem to reconnect with themselves. It creates a stillness that is hard to find in buildings. Research from Japan shows the benefits of forest bathing which appears to be a rising trend. Being outside, walking serves us on many levels. It has been shown that when we walk we are both more creative and resourceful. We have both sides of our brain engaged and as well as helping us solve problems it can also be used for shifting trauma. Moving our body obviously has physically benefits and the action of walking calms our brains.
When our daughter was very ill with anorexia, we had the vast majority of our conversations outside. Even though we would often start out tense and in conflict as we fell into the rhythm of walking our conversations became calmer and more supportive. I recommend to anybody that important conversations are always had walking, whether it is an important business meeting or a slightly delicate conversation with someone important in your life. If you have teenagers finding a way to walk with them is one of the best ways to open up a conversation. It is supportive and non-threatening.
Getting outside in nature is also a great place to practice being present. Start by noticing what you can see. No judgement, just notice. Then bring in your hearing, what can you hear? The birds, the road, someone mowing the lawn, the rustle of your clothes. Then what can you feel? The breeze on your face, the ground under your feet, your clothes on your skin, are you hot or cold? Finally can you taste or smell anything? Enjoy engaging with all your senses, just noticing what is around you. Since I have started walking in this present manner I am regularly delivered wonderful gifts to behold. I notice the details of plants, flowers and trees more than ever before. I am delivered birds, bird song, wild life and rainbows. I notice more detail than ever before and this all helps to support my mental well-being.
Whilst I am blessed to live very close to beautiful country side, I find that even when taking people out in a city centre there are always natural things to be found, whether it is weeds on a piece of waste ground or poking through pavements or cracks in the wall. There are flower beds, occasional trees and the odd cemetery. There is always some nature near at hand and I recommend that you spend some time in it as often as you can. A fifteen minute walk in your lunch hour will set you up for a much better afternoon.
Enjoy being outside whatever the weather, dress for it and get out both your body and mind will be glad you did!