Part I Connecting with the outdoors
**please refer to blog ‘Supporting others’**
There is no getting away from the outdoors, it is there night and day, just look out of a window and you will see it. The four seasons show it in all its glory. We all have access to it, it is free to see and use (excluding attractions) and it is available to all of us. Some may hate it and some may not be able to experience it due to illness or disability. In the main it is there beaming at us to go and explore it.
The way each of us experience it differs. Some of you may be in a hurry on a commute, stressed about arriving at work on time or to get to that next appointment or meeting so don’t really look at what is around you. Ordinarily passing the same place each day, the same people on their same journeys. But what do you see? Is it your phone screen, deep in social media, emails or chat (if on foot) or is it the cars and building traffic around you, for some reason annoying you as you left home two minutes later than usual.
We have all been there, I know I have, too busy engrossed in a screen or too busy worrying about the day ahead or getting somewhere on time. How often do you say to yourself ‘how did I get here? I don’t remember passing (insert landmark).
If you just pause, look up and use your wonderful senses that you were given then who knows what you will find. People do not connect (in the real world) like they used to. A simple hello or smile to someone you pass may mean the world to that person who is lonely, not spoken to anyone for days, thinking of self harm. You never know what the person on the bus or tube is going through as you sit there or walk along preoccupied.
We live in a rat race of pressure, but what if we just step out of that for a moment.
I was given the idea to write about the outdoors by a few of you. One of you wrote ‘There is a science about having our bare feet on the earth that I read, that it literally connects us back to the source. I don’t do it enough but I do get down the beach, to the woodlands or up to the mountains when I can. Air and connection with true self is my medicine’.
How incredible is this?
It would be easy for me to link into exercise here but I will save that for another blog.
I have never been a ‘walker’. I would rather run or cycle but would only walk when I needed to. I would jump in the car to go up the road to the shop. The car is always there, it saves time, time which I could be spending on other things (busy things but often of no significance or relevance).
I love this ‘I deliberately do not drive during the day. If I am moving between sites I walk or use transport to clear my head to refocus and mentally prepare for the next task or meeting’.
I have never walked so much since being on sick leave. I cannot stay home, I hate it, hate being confined to four walls. In the early stages of my illness getting out was my escape. It was my escape from memories which my property held, knowing that if I stayed inside, I would be stuck, not able to move, consumed by deep sadness, staring down the bottle of wine or counting the pills which I had, working out what to take.
Getting out became my medicine and has remained to this day. I walked to places that I not been to before, I sat on benches overlooking the sea. I wrote pages and pages in my journal whilst out in the fresh air, often inspired by what was around me.
Think about what is around where you live and work. Parks, nature reserves, woods, fields, beaches they are all there somewhere.
It was when I was out walking by myself that I decided to get a dog. I isolated myself for many months not wanting to speak or meet up with friends but what I noticed was that dog walkers appeared to have their own little community.
Welcome Olly dog. What a life saver this little crazy fur ball has been. I soon went out and walked with purpose. I had a little life to consider and look after. I became accountable and on days when I really did not want to move from my bed of self pity, I had to get up as Olly would sneeze in my face to tell me (a thing he still does, over 2 years later).
I suddenly began looking at what I had on my doorstep. Beaches, rocks, seaweed (don’t ask), flowers, trees, wildlife. I fell in love with walking and to this day, I am always on the look out for new places to take Olly. Therapy for me and great exercise for him. People started to stop and talk to me. There was no escape as I started to engage. I began talking more to people and have built up some great friendships, including neighbours who I have lived next to for over 10 years and have never spoken to.
As one of you said ‘I was in a really bad place 2 years ago and then my dog came along. We are now inseparable. Our walks help a lot. Going to the local beaches makes me go out’
I am not saying that a dog is your answer as we all have different commitments and circumstances. I never even liked dogs! Walking without a dog for many is just as therapeutic. Plus you do not have to pick up poo.
(Olly likes horse poo)
On your walks, think about how you can bring the outside inside. Many people collect things, pick up pebbles or pick wild flowers. Kids (and adults) enjoy making daisy chains. Many enjoy photography. Simply being outside tendering to your garden, allotment, cutting the grass or washing the car are all activities where you can be at one with yourself and the world.
Research has shown that there are positive effects of spending time outdoors on our mental health and wellbeing, Trust me I am not making all of this up. In fact, a walk, run or stint in the garden can last for 7 hours after an individual has experienced it (countryliving.com 2018). This refers to feeling happier and in good spirits.
The same research points out that those suffering with a mental illness including anxiety and depression, benefit more from getting outdoors than others.
As one of you so kindly shared ‘Key to my survival is being outdoors, hiking, golfing, hearing the birds sing, appreciating nature, being thankful to be alive. The hiking has helped both my mental and physical wellbeing by clearing the shit from my head, and being able to just breathe’
Being outdoors can:
- Improve your mood
- Reduce feelings of stress and anger
- Help you take time out and feel more relaxed
- Improve physical health
- Improve self confidence and self-esteem
- Help you be more active
- Help you make new connections
- Provide peer support
Today I took Olly to a place where we go often. I walked with my head up and noticed things which I haven’t before. It felt different as I took the pictures which you see. It is amazing how going out with a different perspective changes your thinking.
Remember when out this weekend. Look around you. I challenge you to notice things which you haven’t before.