World Mental Health Day takes place on 10 October and aims to raise awareness of mental health issues. Multiple studies have shown that walking, encounters with wildlife, interacting with nature and mindful craft activities can all have a positive impact on our mental health.
We’ve collected some of these studies together with our suggestions for nature-related activities you can do to improve your mental well-being.
Walking is a simple yet effective way to stay fit and healthy and can boost happiness/Credit: ©Getty
In recent years, a number of studies have found that walking in the countryside can boost mental health through the reduction of stress and levels of depression and the promotion of self-esteem. Exercise in the outdoors can also, of course, improve physical health and researchers have found that even just living near to green spaces can boost feelings of well-being.
Inspired to get out and about? We’ve collected 21 of the best autumn walks in the UK, as well as a few walks suitable for those with little legs.
Enjoy a spot of forest bathing
In Japan, the practice being investigated is called shinrin-yoku, which translates as ‘forest bathing’ (all that is necessary to ‘bathe’ is that you spend some time soaking up the woodland atmosphere). Scientists are tracing the effects that time spent in forest environments has on the body and mind, with early trials suggesting positive results. Read more about the benefits of forest bathing here.
<strong>In Japan, <a href=”http://www.publichealthjrnl.com/article/S0033-3506(06)00146-6/abstract”>the practice being investigated is called <em>shinrin-yoku</em>, which translates as ‘forest bathing’</a></strong> Credit: Getty
Take a look at our round-up of some of Britain’s best forests and woodland here
Help and spot wildlife
Children looking for minibeasts at a forest activity centre/Credit: ©Getty
A recent study found that wildlife volunteering can significantly improve mental health, with two thirds of participants reporting improved feelings of positivity six weeks into the volunteering scheme. Stalking and viewing wildlife is also often found to be a calming activity.
See here for our pick of the top autumn wildlife spectacles and here for ideas on how to volunteer with wildlife, which could even take place in your back garden. You can still get involved even if you live in an urban area – just check out our round-up for the best spots for urban wildlife in the UK.
Interact with nature
Urban community gardens have increased in popularity in recent years/Credit: ©Getty
The countryside is not always easily accessible for some people – poverty, lack of opportunity and poor physical health are just some of the reasons that people may not be able to experience rural Britain. However, this doesn’t mean urban dwellers need to forgo the clear benefits of interacting with nature as several schemes have been set up which aim to challenge this. A number of urban farms have been created in inner city areas and aim to offer education (particularly of children) about where food comes from, the helping of vulnerable people with poor mental and/or physical health and community empowerment.
The Good Life Project aims to bring the outdoors indoors by greening office spaces and organising outdoor activities to improve employees’ physical and mental wellbeing.
Try your hand at crafting
Art activities like painting pebbles can aid mindfulness ©Getty
Doing craft activities which require concentration is a form of mindfulness and has been shown to improve mental health. Why not try painting some pebbles, making a sea glass mobile or constructing a kite this week.
Main image: ©Getty