• Jonathan Gibbon

7 ways Nature can benefit our Mental Health and Wellbeing

It’s often said that getting out in nature is good for us, with positive impacts being gained in different areas of wellbeing. For example, going for a walk or taking part in exercise outdoors is good for our physical health. If we use this as an opportunity to meet up with other people, for example in team sports or a walking group, then there is a positive impact on our social wellbeing too.

Being outside in nature also has many benefits for our mental health, so here are seven ways to boost your mental wellbeing outdoors.

Photo by Lāsma Artmane on Unsplash

1. Engage your senses with nature.

Go to the woods, the beach, the park, a garden - anywhere that nature exists - and you can find some calm. Breathe in the air, listen to the sounds of the birds or the sea rolling in, touch the tree bark or the sand. Learn about the plants or wildlife in your area. Notice the effect of the light on the landscape or the way the landscape changes with the seasons.

2. Exercising in nature helps to improve our health and fitness. Exercise increases endorphins in the brain which makes us feel happier, as well as stimulating the release of other chemicals including dopamine and serotonin. This helps to regulate our mood and reduces the negative effects of stress. Regular exercise can boost our self-esteem, improve concentration and have a positive impact on our sleep.

Research shows that even a short amount of exercise in nature has significant returns. Interestingly, those exercising with the presence of water (e.g. by the sea/river/canal or taking part in water-based activities) generated even greater benefit.

Photo by Teemill

3. Grow your own food, either in your garden, in an allotment or even on your windowsill. Not only does this give you peace of mind that your food isn’t covered in chemicals and shipped across the world, but it helps us connect with where our food comes from, ensures food is fresh and gives us a sense of satisfaction that we’ve grown it ourselves.

4. Sitting outside at night and looking at the stars can be a wonderful way to relieve stress. See how the sky changes through time and look for the different constellations, as well as special events like eclipses and comets. You could even get a telescope for a better view of the moon and our neighbouring planets.

Photo by Victoria Gibbon

5. Meeting others outdoors is a great way to boost our mental health and wellbeing.

Whether it’s for sport, a walk or a picnic, meeting others in public outdoor spaces can improve our mood, reduce stress, increase our self-esteem and make us happier! It’s a great opportunity to build relationships and create shared experiences that prevent us feeling lonely too. And it’s often free!

6. Be creative.

Nature is a great inspiration for painting, drawing, writing and photography. Take the time to really take in your surroundings and see how they inspire you.

7. Protect nature.

Engaging in activities that protect and preserve nature can improve our mental health through exercise, giving us purpose, boosting our self-worth and involving us in our community. Litter picking is an excellent activity to help our wildlife and our environment, while simultaneously giving us a mental health boost. Many places across the UK have local groups you can join to engage with others and make a difference where you live.

This is us litter picking with our local community group, the Billericay Litter Pickers. Photo by Coco Amelia Ltd.

There are many other fantastic outdoor activities you can enjoy that can have a positive impact on your mental, physical and social wellbeing. What activities will you add to your weekly schedule?

This piece is taken from a blog post I originally wrote for Coco Amelia during Mental Health Awareness Week 2021.