Discovering the Outdoors During Lockdown
During the COVID 19 Lockdown much of the modern, technologically advanced world was brought to a halt. The natural world, however, not only kept calm and carried on, it positively thrived. Birds continued to sing, flowers and trees kept swaying in the wind, and people began rediscovering the natural world and its ability to refresh the soul. When the streets restaurants emptied, the parks filled up!
Because COVID 19 led to restrictions on people's freedom of movement and severely limited their options for socialising, people were forced to find new ways to entertain themselves. The stress of the lockdown also meant that people were looking for some relief from being cooped up indoors. These two factors led to many people discovering previously unknown beauty spots and walking trails on their own doorsteps.
Free at Last
In an interview with BBC News, Tom Platt from the UK Ramblers’ Association said:
"This lockdown period seems to have given everyone a heightened sense of the simple pleasure of just walking outdoors… Lots of people have been telling us how much they're enjoying getting outdoors and exploring their local area. It's just made people see the world in a different way… With everything else that's been going on it's been really heartening to hear how much pleasure people are getting from being outdoors on a short walk."
Getting out and spending time exploring green spaces is not only pleasurable, it can also work wonders for one’s mental health. According to UK Mental Health Charity Mind, it can:
- Improve your mood
- Reduce feelings of stress or anger
- Help you take time out and feel more relaxed
- Improve your physical health
- Improve your confidence and self-esteem
- Help you be more active
- Help you make new connections
- Provide peer support
Furthermore, spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. Research into ecotherapy (treatment involving activities in natural surroundings) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression.
Being outside in natural light can also have a beneficial effect for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a fairly common form of depression which affects people during the dark winter conditions. There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that getting into nature has helped people with numerous other types of mental health problems.
Mind recommend the following for those thinking about exploring green spaces to improve their mental health:
- Start small – spending just five minutes paying attention to nature in your everyday life can give your wellbeing a boost
- Do things you find relaxing – sitting under a tree, looking at the stars or doing mindfulness activities in natural surroundings (I personally saw many people doing yoga and even practicing martial arts in Greenwich Park during the height of the lockdown)
Experts in the USA too are enthusiastic about the positive effects immersing oneself in nature can have on one’s mental health. According to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing, research suggests that mood disorders can be lifted by spending more time outdoors. They quote Dr Jason Strauss (director of geriatric psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance) as saying:
"Many men are at higher risk for mood disorders as they age, from dealing with sudden life changes like health issues, the loss of loved ones, and even the new world of retirement. They may not want to turn to medication or therapy for help, and for many, interacting with nature is one of the best self-improvement tools they can use."
Harvard Health Publishing further mention that in a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. The findings revealed that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with negative emotions.
Bring the Noise
Studies also indicate that calming nature sounds can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
As for the amount of time one should spend in nature in order to benefit, Dr Strauss says: "Anything from 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week, to regular three-day weekends in the woods is helpful… You can even try to combine your nature outings with your regular exercise by power walking or cycling outdoors".
Bonus: Mountain Wall Art
Mountains arguably offer the ultimate outdoor experiences. For adventurers, mountains make up some of the most alluring and enigmatic locations in the world, offering challenges that many find hard to resist.
With our Mountain Wall Art we hope to inspire people to be adventurous and rise to their own challenges. Check out our Mountain Wall Art Collection and let us know what you think!