Hayley Gillard is an Ecotherapist and Performance Coach. Her work involves working therapeutically outdoors blending fun with improving self-belief, healing negative doubts, increasing confidence and getting unstuck through one to one work, retreats and events. She specialises in women’s emotional health. In this article, Hayley tells about the benefits of spending time outdoors.
There’s a lot to be said for having a great day out. Spending time with loved ones, enjoying the anticipation of the fun you’ll have beforehand and reminiscing with the photographs afterwards works wonders for our wellbeing. But, did you know that spending that day outdoors can have more significant benefits to your emotional health?
Nature can help us, heal us and inspire us to lead healthy lives. Of course, it goes without saying that people may also need medication, exercise, good nutrition and other holistic therapies to help them along the way, but nature is absolutely essential to our emotional health. There is lots of research on the benefits of being in nature and many ways that you can connect with nature, as the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain, packed with over 180 reviews on accessible days out, provides plenty of inspiration for.
Here’s what happens when you step outside
1. Breathe Easy
The most obvious benefit but not one to be overlooked. Breathing fresh air not only improves our circulatory system and our respiratory system, but all that oxygen can help improve our energy levels, makes us more alert, and sharpens our concentration.
Being out in nature actually causes our brain functions to shift. We spend most of our life glued to screens, but nature causes something called ‘soft fascination’ to kick in. This happens when our brain realises it can drop the intense focus it usually needs, relax and become more curious. Our eyes adjust and they send calmer, softer signals to the brain. Being in that state of mind helps us to be more creative due to the natural stimulus demanding less. Creativity creates new ideas, inspires better ways of working and helps people to relax.
3. Focus and Productivity
Studies from the University of Michigan have shown that nature is scientifically proven to improve our ability to focus and be productive! Being deeply immersed in nature e.g. rambling in a forest or at the beach has significantly more benefits than a town-based walk or a view of a cityscape.
Being in nature actually helps us to heal both physically and emotionally. Professor Roger Ulrich from a University in Texas did a study based on recovery from surgery in hospital. He monitored people’s rates of recovery and how nature would affect that. He found that depending on where people’s beds were placed greatly impacted rates of recovery and that those with a view of nature (compared with a view of the ward or a wall) recovered much quicker.
Now the biggest reason for absence from work according to the Health and Safety Executive. Well, nature can help there too! Research published in the Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine journal has shown that being in nature, specifically in forests, reduces the cortisol levels in our brain (our stress hormone) and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. With 12% of staff absence due to mental health problems this is something we can no longer ignore.
Of course being outside is fun! It’s a natural playground, it creates childlike wonder. When was the last time you toasted a marshmallow?! Having fun is actually a fundamental ingredient to happiness. How does building dens, swinging on ropes and making kazoos in the woods sound!? A whole load of endorphins (feel good hormones) flood the brain helping you feel emotionally lighter and more relaxed. Having fun outdoors is not just for kids!
Nature helps us be creative, resilient, inspired, relaxed, excited, engaged. Take a look out our favourite days out in the newly revamped Rough Guide to Accessible Britain packed with ideas from nature reserves to the National Arboretum. Grab your boots and coat and get outdoors this weekend.
Find out more at www.hayleygillard.com