In the 21st century we seem to spend most of our time inside, cars, buses, trains, home, school, office, shopping centres, theatres, cinema, library, the gym. It doesn’t help that the weather in the UK is unreliable and not often warm or dry. We can be put off outside sports at school, spending our time shivering in the cold and damp or baking in the sun with no escape.
It is said that we don’t have the wrong weather in the UK, just the wrong clothes. When you are wearing the correct clothes to suit the different weather conditions then you will be comfortable and content and able to explore the outdoors with confidence. Although not always glamorous, waterproof clothing and protective footwear can free you to explore your environment with impunity.
There is something magical about being outside in Nature. All of your senses come alive, seeing the sky and clouds, the sun or the moon, hearing the birds singing in the trees and the leaves rustling, feeling the sun on your face or the wind in your hair, smelling newly mown grass or perfumed flowers, touching the bark of trees or rubbing smooth stones, maybe tasting a wild blackberry as you stroll. All of these sensations are good for your soul.
The majority of us also spend much of our time being inactive, another habit which is detrimental to our wellbeing, both physically and mentally, leaving us stiff and sluggish in movement and thought. The Eco-therapy movement operates on the belief that being outside and taking part in physical activities is good for the mind as well as the body and can lead to many health benefits.
The mental health charity Mind recommends being active outdoors and recognises it as being beneficial to mental health. It is a good idea to find a friend with whom you can ‘book’ a regular session. This will encourage you both to continue with your exercise regime, especially when the weather is less than conducive or you are tired and looking for an excuse. The fear of letting someone down has been shown to encourage you to turn up and take part.
There is a recognised counselling provision named Walking Therapy where the whole session is planned to be outside, gently walking, relaxing the body and the mind at the same time. This was highlighted in 2016 by Kerry Potter* when she was very impressed by the effect of taking part in just one single session.
At The Summer House, there is an outdoor area in which we can sit in privacy or you can choose to receive your therapy whilst walking around the garden, down a country lane, through a park, alongside a canal or sitting by the locks. Just let me know in advance and I will arrange an outdoor session for you.
For further insight into the link between nature and an improvement in mental health, there are two programmes made by Isabel Hardman for Radio 4 entitled ‘Nature and Depression’ under the One-to-One umbrella. They were broadcast on 19 and 26 September 2017 and are available on catch-up.
* The Times Stella magazine on 8th February 2016.