Getting outside is good for your head

Getting outside is good for your head

Over the last 18 months we’ve gone through so many changes in what we’ve been able to do and where. At some points we’ve largely been restricted to our homes which (for some) means little to no outside space. Lockdown has impacted all of us in so many different ways; but how much has being confined indoors affected our health and wellbeing?

Eco-Psychology

So there’s a whole branch* of Psychology (*sorry!) called ‘eco-psychology’. This is based on the direct link between our wellbeing and our connections and interactions with nature. There’s so much research which supports this idea, with walks in natural settings directly linked to benefits for managing depression, stress, and mood, as well as positively influencing our social behaviours (making us more generous, empathic and helpful). This also applies to managing stress and mood in response to stressful life events; walking in nature has been found to help people cope more than walking in urban environments

So why is this? Some think that natural surroundings give our brains more of a ‘break’ than more built up areas, and this is because there’s less going on that would dramatically grab your attention; say like people shouting or cars beeping. This is great if you’re feeling burnt out or needing to do things requiring a lot of concentration or creativity; spending time in natural environments helps refresh your mind and leads to more productivity and creativity when you return to your task.

Exercise

Of course we have indoor gyms, home workouts etc. but these forms of exercise don’t appeal to everyone. Getting outside opens up more possibilities for getting active; walking and hiking (alone or in groups), running, football, wild swimming, tennis, basketball, outdoor yoga (to name but a few). And this has fantastic benefits for our physical health. There’s plenty of evidence that being able to get to natural/ green spaces increases the probability we will get the exercise we need to improve cardiovascular health, neurocognitive development, and to prevent obesity, cancer, and osteoporosis. As well as the benefits to our mental health, including managing stress, mood and our general life satisfaction.

Things to do outdoors

It’s not just exercise; we can also get outside and get the health and wellbeing benefits doing other activities too:

  • Gardening 
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Eating (personal favourite) – picnic, barbecue, beer garden etc
  • Reading
  • Geocaching – like a big scavenger hunt for anyone, any age and all over the country – very fun!
  • Watching films, music events or theatre
There are so many reasons for us to get outside and spend time in natural surroundings – and this does not have to look the same for everyone. Walking, sport, swimming, gardening, socialising, scavenger hunting – there are countless reasons to get out of the house and get outside now that we can! Check out Head Hacks outdoor activities to see what’s going on near you!

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Sources

Bedimo‐Rung, A.L., Mowen, A.J. & Cohen, D.A. (2005) The significance of parks to physical activity and public health: A conceptual model, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28, pp. 159‐ 168.

Kaplan, S. (1995) The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, pp. 169-182.

Marselle, M., Irvine, K. & Warber, S. (2014) Examining group walks in nature and multiple aspects of well-being: A largescale study, Ecopsychology, 6(3), pp. 134–147.

Owen, N. et al (2010) Too much sitting: the population‐health science of sedentary behavior, Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 38, pp. 105‐113.

White, M.P. et al (2013) Would You Be Happier Living in a Greener Urban Area? A Fixed-Effects Analysis of Panel Data, Psychological Science (online), DOI: 10.1177/0956797612464659.

Zhang, J.W. et al (2014) An occasion for unselfing: Beautiful nature leads to prosociality, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 37, pp. 61-72.

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