Three Reasons Why Getting Outside Is Good For Your Mental Health

Did you know that today is Global Wellness Day? For over a decade, this day has been marked as a time to think about the value of our lives, to raise awareness about living well and to think about ways that we can decrease stress, make peace with ourselves and be motivated to live well all year round. Two years ago, our fantastic Welfare Officers recorded a podcast episode with us in which they talked about why being outdoors was so good for our mental wellbeing so today, we thought we’d pull out three key points from that conversation about why getting outside can make the world of difference to us.

Trees Make Us Healthy

Phytoncides are natural oils that are released by trees and plants as part of their immune system. They release these oils to protect them from infection, bacteria and insects that might have a harmful impact. However, when we are around trees and plants and breathe them in, they improve and boost our immunity! This is because they contain antibacterial and antifungal qualities so when we breathe them in, “our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.” (Source)

The density of phytoncides depends on the type of tree and time of year, with a higher density of them being present on warmer days but regardless of the time of year, just walking outside in nature can boost your immunity and wellbeing.

Soil Makes Us Happy

There are microbes in soil (to be precise, bacteria called mycobacterium vaccae) that, when in contact with our skin, triggers the release of serotonin in our brains. As many of you know, serotonin is a feel good hormone and a natural anti-depressant. This is why so many of us feel better after we’ve spent time in our gardens digging and why kids naturally gravitate to playing in dirt and mud! This bacteria also has a boosting effect on our immune systems so whilst your washing machines might not thank you, this is why when you see your kids playing in the muddiest of spots, you should be leaving them to it or even better yet – joining them(!), rather than ushering them away to a cleaner spot.

A Connecting Experience

Finally, being outdoors offers a chance to experience life through all of our senses, helping us to connect with the world and other beings around us. It is authentic and real, and can often serve as a great way to get a sense of perspective on a tricky situation whilst also calming us if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. We’ve spoken before about the outdoors being a great equaliser but it’s so true, if you’re walking with a friend in the woods, you’ll be exposed to the same terrain, the same wind, the same temperature. This can help us feel connected to those around us and helps us see the bigger picture on what really matters in life.

There are so many other reasons why getting outdoors is good for us, from improving our physical fitness to absorbing vitamin D from learning new skills to getting a break from screens. But we hope that the three we’ve highlighted have given you some food for thought today as you take a moment to think about your own wellness and check in on what things you do or could be doing to look after yourself and improve your wellbeing as the year continues.

Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader

Date: Friday 7th June 2024

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