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Ever since you were young, you've probably been encouraged to go outside and “get some fresh air” – but what are the actual benefits to getting outside?
According to Mind Charity, there are a number of ways that nature can benefit your mental health.
It could be considered that these are the greatest benefits to being outside, as your mental health is so important, and will help you enjoy the other benefits. Being outside has been proven to improve your confidence and self-esteem; this is particularly linked to being active outside. In particular, it can help ward off things like seasonal affective disorder, depression and anxiety.
It might sound a little strange but, sometimes the greatest benefit to being outside, is the fact you're not inside. There are less distractions outside, or maybe the distractions outside are just more positive. How much nicer is it to be distracted by a squirrel scurrying through the garden, or a bird perching high up above, rather than a pile of washing or a phone buzzing at you every few minutes? Taking some time to let yourself unwind and not think about everything you need to do at home can benefit you in a multitude of ways. Let yourself be distracted by the world around you and experience the benefits of the great outdoors.
If you are finding yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed or angry then it could be a good idea to try getting outside more. Sometimes, our negative feelings can begin to build up and consume us, making it difficult for us to have clarity. Taking some time to get outside allows you to relax your muscles, think more clearly and have some objectivity towards how you are feelings. It won't solve all your problems but it might just give you the clarity to soothe how you are feeling, or put together a plan for how to move forward.
Being active outside doesn't have to mean going for a run or doing vigorous exercise; it can also mean wandering around the garden, playing games with family or friends or going for a walk. Wandering around the garden whilst tending to the flowerbeds means that you're up and moving, whilst also taking care of your garden and making it look beautiful. Playing games in the garden could be anything from a game of catch, rounders, cricket or anything else you can enjoy together. Being active outside can simply mean getting your body up moving and stretching, and not cooped up on the sofa.
If you do want to improve your physical health, you could try walking, hiking, jogging or cycling. If you're looking for something you could do in your garden, you could look at yoga, jumping rope (or skipping), bodyweight exercises or interval training (for those who are a looking for a challenge).
Exercising outside is proven to make you feel more energised, revitalised and as mentioned previously, can boost self-esteem. More generally, exercise also produces endorphins, which boost your mood, reduces pain and generally makes you feel better.
Feeling connected with nature can allow you to feel more grounded, relaxed and at peace. Experiencing nature could be a variety of things depending on where you decide to go outside. Even just going for a walk around the block allows you to take in fresh air and can be appreciated all year round (with the right amount of layers on). If you decide to go a bit further afield such as going to a green area, park or on a walking route, then you are likely to see a variety of trees, plants and flowers; you might even see some wildlife or small animals on your walk.
The social benefits described by Mind are great example of how being outside can benefit you socially. First of all, it's a good way to connect with loved ones, taking the time to get outside with family or friends gives you the opportunity to spend time together with less distractions. Secondly, it can be a great way connect with your community, whether that be taking a walk to local independent stores, going to local parks or joining local walking groups or activities.
It's also important to note that even if you go outside on your own, there are still social benefits to reap. Even just seeing other people outside is a positive benefit to getting outside; you never know, by smiling at a stranger you just might have made their day.
These are just some of the benefits to getting outside, but it's important to treat yourself to some time outdoors – even if that means putting on a hat and scarf!