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Outdoor Play and Your Mental Wellbeing

by Chris Mennens |

Whether it’s taking lunch in your local park, tending the vegetable patch, heading out with the dog or tackling a new hiking trail – we believe there’s little in life better for your health than ditching the office or gym for the outdoors and getting back to nature.

And the great thing is – science agrees too!

Just 18-months ago, a study by the University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions suggested that people who simply visit a park for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to suffer from poor mental health than those who don’t.

That mix of sunlight, endorphins and oxygen boosts your mood, calms your breathing and decreases the levels of stress and anxiety you’re feeling. And it’s not just wishful thinking – there are proven links between perceiving nature and reduced blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Richard Mitchell, an Epidemiologist at Glasgow University, sums it up perfectly

“There is something about natural environments that improves people’s wellbeing…You perceive nature with your senses. Your brain processes those sensory experiences and triggers physiological responses.”

It’s amazing when you think about it. And best of all, it’s easy to get all of the benefits in your day-to-day routine. Here are five ideas to get your started –

  1. Put outdoor lunchbreaks in your diary. If you’re one of those people who sits at your desk for lunch – or even skips lunch all together – put time in your diary to get out of the office and switch the fluorescent lights for daylight. It’s very easy to waste the breaks you get (especially in the UK!) when they could be used for anything from a gentle stroll to a 5k run. It’s a great opportunity to get outdoors, recharge and refocus – and often to meet other likeminded colleagues away from your desk!

  1. Buy a dog. Whilst this doesn’t exactly ‘fit’ into your daily routine – you’ll quickly find a new daily routine where it does! There isn’t much better for motivation than an enthusiastic walking partner pestering your to get outdoors. There really is a lot of truth in the benefits of making a canine companion a part of the family!

  1. Walk to your local shop. Next time you need a pint of milk or a few bits and pieces for dinner, leave the car in the drive and take the opportunity to get some fresh air. Many people have local shops within walking distance, and who knows what may come from bumping into some of the people who live around you!

  1. Make a weekend of it! A weekend in nature – or even a day trip if you’re really pushed for time – can be a great way to clear the cobwebs and reignite your passion for day-to-day life. It’s easy to find a reason to not do this, so please do give some thought to making it happen – we promise that it very quickly becomes addictive!

  1. Take the gym outside. Have you noticed how many people drive to a gym to then sit indoors on a bike that doesn’t go anywhere? From cycle paths to exercise equipment in local parks – there are more possibilities than ever before to take your next workout outdoors. And even if there’s no escaping the need to hit the gym, why not leave the car at home and do your warm up on the way!

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