It is no secret that I 'suffer from' (no) 'live with' (umm not right) 'am diagnosed with' (still not happy)...
Me. I am who I am, and part of that is living with mental illness. I have come to accept this, to realise that it is part of what makes me the rich, diverse and interesting person that I am. It doesn’t define me, I won’t let it control me but neither do I wish to be seen to be ‘suffering’ with it. I have accepted it, it has accepted me and we have a glorious symbiotic relationship. My anxiety enables me to see the world in a truly unique way, it enables me to reflect, to have huge levels of empathy, to understand myself and others more and most importantly recognising that I have anxiety had led me to kindness.
Everyone talks about mental illness being treated the same as a condition such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease etc. And I agree, the stigma attached to mental illness is a burden we all carry, because I believe that everyone has, at some point, had periods where their mental health has been unsettled. It is something that we all live with, in the same way as we all get a cold, or man-flu or a sprained ankle. However, it also isn’t quite the same. For our mental wellbeing is so much more connected to who we are, as individuals. It is this individuality that make the ‘treatment’ of mental health such a challenge. What is great for one person may be terrible for the next. But I do believe that there is one thing that everyone can do to maintain, nurture and improve their mental health and that is the outdoors.
‘It's the idea that people living close to nature tend to be noble. It's seeing all those sunsets that does it. You can't watch a sunset and then go off and set fire to your neighbour's tepee. Living close to nature is wonderful for your mental health.’ Daniel Quinn, Ishmael, 1992
An article in The Telegraph recently came to my attention and it talks about 'friluftsliv’: the concept of open air living and latest Scandi buzzword. Forget last year’s hygge - which saw us embrace faux fur throws and candlelight - this is the cosiness backlash’. It can be translated, roughly as ‘free, air, life’ and this concept has really struck a chord with me. Because being outside is exactly those three things for me. In Scandinavian countries friluftsliv is a part of everyday life, it is central to the way that the Scandinavians live. However in the UK it has been documented that our children are the most housebound in a survey of 10 countries. This is seriously alarming.
Being connected with nature and the outside, for me is fundamental to my wellbeing. Having worked in an office environment with very little natural light I remember feeling myself sinking deeper and deeper back in to myself. I started drinking again, after three years as t-total, I was eating large amounts of sugar every day and just sitting, looking at a computer screen day in day out. It wasn’t healthy for me.
“Being indoors creates a world that’s compartmentalised from the changing weather, landscapes and feelings. In contrast, being outside enriches our lives. Experiencing the unpredictability of the weather – a breeze over your face or an unexpected rainfall – adds variety to our lives. Smells evoke memories and thoughts and connecting with nature allows us to escape monotony,” Dr Rosenthal, Telegraph 2017
Being outdoors for me is like magic, its almost like I can feel the air and the light filling me up. Just sitting in the garden and reading for 15 minutes, wrapped up in blankets is all I need each day to reset myself. But ultimately walking, being up in the hills and mountains is when I am at my happiest and this is not something I can ignore.
For you I offer a challenge. Just 15 minutes a day outside. Yes, just 15 minutes. Getting outside and taking a walk can clear your head and boost your immune system and elevate your sense of wellbeing. This is scientific FACT.
While outdoor sports such as walking climbing, cycling and canoeing successfully combine exercise with outdoor stimulation, any form of outdoor living will elevate your mental health. Simply walking through a woodland has been proven to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reduce blood pressure and heart rate. So take a daily walk, try your hand at cycling or simply sit and read in a garden to see benefits.
Getting outdoors to feel happier and healthier is both intuitive and backed by medical science! Make yourself a promise to spend just 15 minutes or more in a natural environment per day to reap the rewards.
Go on #GetOutside, embrace friluftsliv and enjoy 15 minutes Outdoors – use the hashtag #15Outside to share with everyone on Instagram and Twitter. Come on, join in!
If you think you may be dealing with some kind of mental health issue then you can get help with diagnosis online from a psychiatrist with Better Help.
Mind Ecotherapy Report
Government Report 2016
The Wildlife Trust