How spending time in nature can improve your mental health


Our Marketing Manager, Chris Kelly, tells us about how nature has had a positive impact on his own mental health, as well as some tips and tricks on how to incorporate nature within your wellbeing routine. 

The last year had proved the importance of the great outdoors and its impact on mental health and wellbeing; never has going for a walk felt more valuable

Personally, I’ve always been drawn to taking long walks and getting lost in nature, but until recently it never really dawned on me just how beneficial doing this was for my state of mind. Everyone likes a walk along a beach in the summer, it’s a huge part of most summer vacations – hearing the sea crashing on the shore, feeling the sand between your toes and the warmth from the sun on your face as you clear your mind from the stresses of your regular day-to-day routines. I know we are all feeling in desperate need of this kind of escape right now, but maybe you don’t have to hop on a plane to get the same sort of mental breathing room?

Most people live within walking distance, or at least a short car ride, from a park or woodland area, and just spending time there can be hugely therapeutic. Whether it be a walk with the dog, a picnic with the kids or an off-road bike ride – all forms or exercise and activity can help. Science backs this up too. Research shows that spending time in forests can improve our health and wellbeing.

For me, there’s nothing better than walking through woodland – standing amongst the tall pine trees with their swaying branches overhead – and this is the start of forest bathing. It’s officially known as Shinrin Yoku, essentially it’s a relaxation process that takes place in the woods. It not hard to do, doesn’t require any level of fitness (unless you are walking to a woodland that is miles from home!), and can leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed.

If you get a chance to try, here are some suggestions as to how to get the most from your forest bathing:

  • Turn off your mobile phone to give yourself the best chance of relaxing, being mindful and enjoying the experience.
  • Slow down. Move through the forest slowly so you can see and feel more.
  • Take long deep breaths, this sends a message to the body that it can relax.
  • Take in your surroundings using all of your senses. Think about how the forest makes you feel?
  • Try to avoid thinking about your to-do list or issues related to daily life. You might be surprised by the number of animals you see using this process.
  • Keep your eyes open. The colours of nature are soothing - studies have shown that people relax best while seeing greens and blues.
  • Stay as long as you can, start with a comfortable time limit and build up to the recommended two hours for a complete forest bathing experience.