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This year’s theme for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek is all about connecting with nature. When you consider that more than six in ten adults say the great outdoors has had a positive impact on their mental health – it’s no surprise!
So, what’s another bonus of focusing on getting back to nature? Well, most outdoor activities are free – so this year’s theme is something we can really get behind. Below, we’ve listed our five favourite free nature-related activities.
Five mindful outdoor activities
- A daily stroll
You don’t need to head to a national park, just step out the door and walk! With so many of us stuck at home with very little to break up the day, why not take the opportunity to get some fresh air in the morning, at lunch or in the evening (or all three if you’re feeling it!).
If you’d like to try a new route, or just aren’t sure what walks there are near you, then the Walking Britain website has details of lots of walking routes right across Britain.
- Get active; run, cycle or take the dog out
Around 3.2 million of us bought pets during lockdown, the majority of which being dogs. With the sun starting to creep out across the UK (well, sort of), it’s never been a better time to take the dog for a new adventure.
If you don’t have a dog, then of course nothing is stopping you from just getting out for a run, walk or cycle. But if you are looking to spice up your usual active routine then have a look into geocaching. It’s basically a giant free treasure hunt. You need to download the app and then follow clues on your walk to find hidden treasure…
- Have a picnic & explore the great outdoors
Yes – you will have to make or buy some sandwiches, but the cost of this compared to a pub lunch is a no-brainer. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy either. A couple of rolls, a packet of crisps and some fruit should do the trick!
Sites like TripAdvisor have some great picnic spots for your local area – so if you don’t know the perfect place off the top of your head, try something new.
- Breathe, it’s good for your health
So, we all breathe every day. But have you ever taken five, ten or fifteen minutes to solely concentrate on your breathing? It can do wonders for your health.
When we’re stressed, anxious or in our ‘fight or flight mode’, our breath can be quite shallow, rapid and we can find we’re breathing into our chest. To tap into our ‘rest and digest’ response, we can consciously breathe deeper, longer and into our belly.
Take some time, find a lovely quiet spot – inside or outside – and practice deep breathing. If you struggle to do this on your own, then have a look at apps like Headspace or search for a guided meditation on YouTube.
- Take some pictures
For the rest of the week, why not fill your photo gallery or social media with photos of nature? Taking photos outside can help you to see nature from a different perspective. By noticing the little things, you can develop a new appreciation for the flora and fauna.
You don’t need to have a fancy camera either, just have a go. The iPhone Photography school has some great tips if you’re looking for a bit of extra inspiration.
To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week, visit the Mental Health Foundation website or search #ConnectWithNature and get involved. You can also visit our Financial Wellbeing Hub for information on the links between money and mental health.