Exploring the Great Outdoors and Mental Health Benefits

 

For over┬áseven weeks we have been in lockdown. It may last a week, a month, or a year. We simply don’t know. What we do know, is that we are now unrestricted in relation to being outdoors, which has shown our great need to be outdoors and our great need for freedom. So, how do we get the most from the outdoors for our minds and our bodies during these uncertain times that lie ahead of us, to a new normal?

Whether you’re jogging, cycling, or walking, studies suggest that exposure to natural environments, or ‘greenspace’, can significantly benefit your mental health. One explanation for this is offered by the psychologist Kaplan, who differentiates between two kinds of stimulation. Firstly, Kaplan describes the ‘hard fascination’ of the city: imagine somebody drilling in the road, or a police siren slicing through an otherwise perfect spring day. Kaplan compares this to the ‘soft fascination’ of the backcountry: envisage a slow-growing tree sprouting from a motionless mountain; see everything doing just as it does. Nature without intervention. For many, especially those from urban areas, nature is often associated with peace, or with holidays. Nature is a reprieve from the urban jungle.

A recent study suggests that after feeling acute stress, sleepiness, or boredom, exposure to natural scenes can be restorative. But how do we maximise nature’s potential healing properties? There are many contrasting answers to this question. Researchers believe that even viewing a photograph or a film depicting a rural scene will be revitalising. However, other researchers believe that a more immersive approach is needed.

Sadly, COVID-19 is still at large, and so total immersion in the natural world is difficult for all of us. Still, whether we can interact with nature in our allotted timeframes at present, or whether we spend a day outdoors or simply look out of our windows to see the sky, it’s important that we do. In these times of great uncertainty there’s one thing that can never, truly, falter: The Earth, and the love that it can gives.

We live in uncertain yet exciting times, where the power of nature is formally being recognised and introduced into the world of therapy. If you’re interested in ecotherapy and would like to have a chat about any worries that you have at this time, I’m now offering online sessions. Please get in touch with me by phone: 07437 447391, or by e-mail: info@estellelinneycounselling.co.uk, to arrange an appointment.