HEALTH & FITNESS INSPIRATION LIFESTYLE OUTDOOR GUIDES

HOW YOU CAN USE THE OUTDOORS FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

November 13, 2018

As someone who has experienced a period of mental illness myself, I’m not claiming taking a walk along the beach will turn your frown upside down. But it may well clear your head, giving you space to breathe, allowing yourself to take a step back and reflect on the bigger picture.

Neither should the outdoors be treated as a prescription, saved only for low moments. Rather, getting outside should be incorporated into our lifestyles. Just as you ensure you drink enough water, be sure to venture outdoors often. In this article, I’m going to battle 10 excuses I hear most often about why you can’t get outside more.

1) IT’S WINTER AND DARK

This one is tricky. Living in the U.K. I am definitely a culprit of not getting enough daylight during the winter months. This is where incorporating the outside in your daily routine is so important. Jumping off the bus a stop earlier, cycling to work (that raincoat will come in handy here), taking a stroll at lunchtime all tick that vitamin D box! And of course, if you find a weekend when the sun is shining, wrap yourself up in a cosy scarf and make for the hills!

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

2) THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME

This seems to be the age-old excuse for anything and everything we know is good for us. I personally use this excuse for the gym, eating healthy, cycling to work and sleeping, to name a few. But we all know it’s not about time, it’s about prioritising. Yes, there are only 24 hours in a day and we have to spend a certain amount; at work, sleeping, eating, drinking, commuting, sitting on the sofa, showering so what is the easiest way to incorporate the outdoors into your routine?

If you are lucky enough to get a lunch break, it could be as easy as taking your lunch on a walk. Or instead of the gym session, you force yourself to take it outside and run, squat and lunge around in nature.

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

3) I LIVE IN THE CITY

While I would love to be running around the peaks of New Zealand on a daily basis, this isn’t realistic (or affordable!) to my lifestyle. We all have bills to pay and life tends to get in the way of huge adventures but that’s okay! Instead of making excuses about how the mountains are too far away, use the outdoor space that’s on your doorstep. It could even be as simple as changing up your evening commute and taking a longer route home through your park.

That being said, sometimes you do need a change of scenery so get away whenever the opportunity arises! My New Year’s resolution was to become a weekend warrior and make the most out of every single weekend, and it still surprises me just how much you can fit into 48 hours.

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

4) IT’S RAINING

Yes, it’s raining and what’s your point? If a bit of bad weather stopped me from venturing outdoors I would never have climbed Arthur’s Seat in Scotland, Roy’s Peak in New Zealand, Angel’s Landing in America and countless hikes in Wales. I always try to have the mindset that if I were travelling in Asia during monsoon season, I would still carry on exploring outdoors instead of sitting in my hostel room waiting for the rain to pass.

Applying this attitude to your day-to-day life ensures nothing can deter you from stepping outside and feeling so much better (even if a little wet!) after a walk spent jumping over puddles. Oh, a raincoat and wellies help too.

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

5) I LIKE MY SOFA

When you’re feeling low, the sofa does become your sole companion, mixing Netflix into the equation and the whole evening is over before you even laced up your trainers. As hard as it is, I try to save switching the TV on until it gets dark and I’ve ventured yonder (although lying on your bed and aimlessly scrolling doesn’t count as being productive).

If you’re in a funk these are the instants your mind needs fresh air the most. It’s so noticeable the difference pre and post nature walk and, although the outdoors won’t heal your mind, it will do a great job at giving you a brighter moment.

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

6) I’M TOO TIRED AFTER WORK

I honestly get it. I was stuck in this mindset for so long, finishing in the evening I would commute home with the thought of pyjamas being the only thing on my agenda. Instead, have your trainers and an outfit ready to change into when you return, grab a water bottle and banana and turn straight back out the door. Even if you only get outside for 20 minutes, your mind will benefit so much from switching off from the world and engaging in nature.

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

7) I CAN’T AFFORD ADVENTURE

Of course we can’t all afford to go on a road trip to the mountains every weekend, but putting one date in your calendar each month for an adventure is such a mood booster. It doesn’t have to cost all your monthly earnings either! A camping weekend can be done on a shoestring, you can bring everything with you so no extra spent on food, all you need is money for petrol/ train ticket and the campsite. You could even wild camp for free and save on campsite fees and wake up with a sunrise view to yourself!

Exploring your immediate area is the best place to start for the weekends you can’t afford plane tickets or lengthy road trips. I worked out that I was more than happy driving up to 3 hours in a day to reach an adventure destination which opened up a whole new side of the U.K. Since then I often spend weekends in Wales, Somerset, venture over to the New Forest for a day trip and if I can find a friend to split the driving we can go as far as Cornwall and the Lake District.

So grab your phone and look on Google Maps at green areas you can happily reach!

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

8) I HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO

It’s Sunday and your to do list is already arm’s length with life admin, and there isn’t a moment to squeeze in a 30 minute bike ride or an hour up the nearest hill. Or worse yet, it’s Tuesday and you have work in the mix. If we treated our mental needs as we do our physical, getting outside would never be at the bottom of the to-do list. Writing a list with shower, drink water, eat three meals, move my body, breathe fresh air could be a useful starting point if you’re sinking into a rut.

Think of yourself as a plant that needs fresh air, water and sunlight!

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

9) I’M NOT A MORNING PERSON

My answer to this excuse has always been: go to bed earlier. It takes roughly 7 days to adjust your body clock so work out how many hours sleep you need each night to wake up feeling fresh and work backwards. Waking up earlier not only means you can catch a sunrise but also gives you the feeling of having more time in the day. If you’re up 2 hours before work rather than 1, you could fit in a bike ride or local walk to start your day off on the right foot.

There are of course days where I hit the snooze button and sleep in but these are far and few. You never regret a sunrise.

How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

10) I’M A SOLO WOMAN

Okay so I’ve only ever heard one person say this ever and I was ASTOUNDED. I couldn’t believe this was still a belief floating around in 2018. Yes, I am a woman, yes I am going for a solo walk/bike ride/hike/kayak and no I do not need to worry. End of story.

There’s something about stepping outside, letting the fresh air fill you up and looking around to be met by a spectrum of greens and blues. Whether you are hiking a mountain, kayaking down a river, cycling through woodland or simply exploring your local park, nature has and always will be a mood booster.

Disclaimer: If any of these points have triggered an issue for you, you can always find help at Mind.org.uk.


Do you like to be outdoors? If you have any questions about the information please leave these in the comments below.

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We Are Travel Girls Senior Contributor Sarah Bryant 
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How You Can Use the Outdoors for Your Mental Health

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2 Comments

  • Reply Kelsey Cetin November 14, 2018 at 3:24 am

    This is an amazing post, I love how you knock down every excuse for getting outdoors. I am honestly guilty of these excuses as well, but this has inspired me to remember to make getting outdoors a priority! Even if it is cold!

    • Reply Sarah Bryant November 20, 2018 at 2:13 am

      Aw thanks Kelsey! Its currently pouring with ice-cold rain over here in London but I’ve already been out this morning…Glad you’re getting outside too.!

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