June is 'Great Outdoors Month', a much-needed reminder of the importance of getting outside in nature as much as possible, especially now that the weather is starting to warm up.
Most of us now live so far removed from nature. We spend all day indoors in heated (or air conditioned) buildings, often with the windows closed, and now that many of us work from home (and maybe even have a home gym!), we may find that there are some days when we don’t leave the house at all.
We saw the toll this took on our mental health during the pandemic (when many of us were forced to stay indoors), and we know from the research that being in nature has a profound impact on our physical and mental wellbeing (there are even specialised types of counselling now that link nature to wellbeing, such as ecotherapy and forest bathing).
But in case you need a reminder, here are some of the benefits of being outdoors in nature:
It boosts vitamin D levels - and we know vitamin D is important for so many functions in the body, including energy and hormone health
It can improve mood
It helps to reduce stress
It can improve physical health - not only because people tend to be more active outdoors, but also through breathing fresh air which can improve respiratory health
It can help to distract from chronic or severe pain
It improves our attention and focus
It helps us sleep better
It can change our perspective - we all know that feeling when you're stuck on a problem or swamped by work... going for a walk outside, having a change of scene and fresh air, can be all it takes for you to come up with the solution you needed, and we know that nature can improve creativity.
Ok, so we know it’s important, but how do we actually incorporate outdoors time into our busy lives (especially if we have to work indoors)?
Here are 5 ways to get outdoors this June:
#1 Have a picnic/take your lunch outside
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, a great way to spend more time outdoors during the week is to eat outside! Many of us (myself included!) don't feel they can take time out of the working day to go for a walk or spend a significant amount of time away from work, but we all have to eat! So taking your meals outside is a great way to get a little bit of nature during your lunch break, as well as some fresh air and a change of scenery. If you don’t have a garden, why not take your lunch to the park? Take a little blanket with you and make it a special date with yourself. Try not to take other things to distract you, like music or a book, just enjoy the food and the view around you – soak it all in!
#2 Make coffee dates in the park
Similarly, if your working day is packed full of meetings, why not suggest a walking meeting in the park, rather than sitting in an office (this works even if you’re in a remote meeting – why not suggest to all your virtual colleagues that you all go out for a walk while doing the meeting?)? Most people would be happy for the exercise, and you can still easily talk since you're just walking (maybe just choose a quieter park, and make sure you have a good mobile data connection!). At the weekend, rather than meeting a friend in a café, why not get takeaway and go sit (or walk) in the park or some other green space near you? It makes for a more enriching experience than talking indoors.
#3 Swap the treadmill for the open road
If you’re a runner, instead of hitting the gym this month, why not take your workout outdoors and go running in the park? If running’s not your thing, there are many other exercises that can be taken outdoors, like yoga, or even swimming (if you’re brave enough, and a strong-enough swimmer, for cold-water swimming!)!
#4 Go for a walk/hike at the weekend
If you don’t have a garden and don’t have easy access to a park or green space, how about jumping in the car (or train/bus) at the weekend and going for a long walk or hike somewhere a bit further away? You can usually find local rambler groups (on Facebook, for example) who can direct you to the best, most suitable walks for you, or simply try googling ‘hikes close to [your town/city]’. Make sure you find out in advance how difficult the walk is going to be, wear appropriate clothing (good quality walking shoes, maybe a stick if the walk is steep, and warmer clothes if the walk is elevated), and let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back (sounds over-cautious, but we have many tourists who get into a lot of trouble on some of the mountain walks here in Scotland!).
#5 Bike or walk to work
As the weather starts to heat up, is it possible for you to walk or bike to work? It might mean leaving a little earlier (and getting home later) but you could swap the gym for the commute so you might even save time! Plus, you’re getting that all-important outdoors time, and will probably find that you’re more calm, focused, and happy at work.
So, there you have it, 5 ways to get outdoors this summer. What will you try?
If you’re looking for more tips on building healthy and sustainable habits, book in for a free consultation with me to see how coaching can support you.