10, January 2022
Nature's Feel-Good Factor
When light is in short supply and winter feels like it could go on forever (and ever), our mental health can suffer. While there is never a one size fits all fix, science shows that spending time in nature is one of the best things we can do to feel better. If you’re feeling the blues this January, here are some ways to boost your mood, naturally.
Get Out There
Simply spending time outdoors in nature can be mentally, emotionally and physically beneficial. This could look like a walk in the woods, around the park, or down by the beach – any natural, green space will do. Research suggests we should be aiming for 120 minutes a week spent in nature. However you use that time, the trick is to take notice of the sights, sounds and smells around you. Take it all in.
Feeling this kind of connection to nature allows positive emotions like calmness, joy and creativity to thrive. It’s a happy reminder that we are part of something greater than ourselves (we’re nature too after all), which can help with those everyday worries and anxieties.
Spending more time in nature can also mean spending more time with friends, family and the community. In fact, eco-therapy, which involves taking part in outdoor group activities like gardening, conservation and looking after animals, is becoming more and more popular as a treatment for mental health.
Take The Plunge
If you read the words ‘wild swimming’ and want to scroll past immediately, resist. According to a study undertaken in 2000 by scientists in Prague, cold water immersion can boost our happy hormone, dopamine, by 530%. That post-swim high is real. Cold water swimming can also help reduce levels of our stress hormone, cortisol. Impressed yet?
Wild swimming, or open water swimming, is exactly what it sounds like. You can do it anywhere there’s a safe place to swim – think lakes, rivers or the seaside. Because it requires focus on breathing and movement (leaving little brain space to think of anything else), wild swimming can be a really meditative experience. It can even help ease anxiety. According to Cornwall Mind, “overcoming the resistance to entering cold water can help us to build mental resilience. Over time this helps us to become more confident and boost self esteem.”
Thinking about making a splash? Be sure to buddy up with a chill-seeking friend and get familiar with some common sense safety tips before you take the plunge.
Let Nature In
So we know getting outside is good – tick. But bringing nature inside can be beneficial too. From arranging flowers and potting houseplants, to creating natural dyes and crafting with raw materials; mindful making is a proven antidote to stress and anxiety. It all comes down to that meditative focus and the satisfaction we get from our finished projects. With such restorative effects, crafting courses have even been used in occupational therapy since the 19th century.
Crafting aside, simply filling our homes with little pockets of nature can keep us feeling calmer and happier. Great news for those who live in more urban areas. The act of caring for a plant and watching it thrive can give a sense of purpose that keeps stress levels in check. And even looking at the colour green can have a positive impact on your mood. As if we needed more reasons to buy plants.
Nature helps when you’re feeling low, but talking helps too – head to mind.org.uk to find a listening service.