At the moment, as I sit writing this, there’s a threat of rain. But the past few days have been glorious, and (hopefully) the Summer will bring many more wonderfully sunny days. With this in mind, I wanted to remind everyone of the importance of getting out in the open air.
I often see clients who work long hours, then spend most of their non-work time on laptops, catching up with housework, or watching TV. In fact, it’s not unusual for them to report that the only time they are outdoors is when they walk from the car to the door of their house, office, or supermarket.
When I ask people what they would like to be different, almost invariably they will say something like, ‘I’d be going for a nice long walk in the fresh air’. There’s a bit of them that knows that getting sunlight and fresh air is good for them, they’re just not doing it.
Spending time in green open spaces, in contact with nature, can drastically improve our mental and physical well-being, helping to reduce the symptoms of stress and improving our physical fitness. There’s even a theory that we have an in-built bond with the natural world.
We are all familiar with the idea that going outside – for a walk to ‘cool down’ after an argument or stressful situation – actually feels like a natural, inbuilt response. Well, that’s because it is! But you don’t need to wait for that super-stressful moment, just taking a little time to get some fresh air can really help people remain calm and contented in a deep-seated, fundamental way.
Several studies have shown that walking outdoors can increase concentration and focus, as well as improved mood.
Two years ago a study found walking in woodland sparked a 16 per cent increase in attention and memory compared to the same time strolling on a busy street – although both types of walk improved participants’ mood significantly.
Another study showed adults who had not been diagnosed with any illness received a mental boost after an hour-long walk in a woodland park. Their performance on memory and attention tests was improved by 20 per cent compared with after an hour-long walk in a noisy urban environment.
I sometimes help people re-connect with the natural environment, to improve low mood or alleviate stress. Part of my job is to help clients recognise that they have a choice about how they structure their lives. If they feel stuck or trapped, I can help them to identify options and help them take the steps necessary to implement the changes needed.
And if the changes involve ‘going for a nice long walk in the fresh air’, what better place to start than your local park or other open space? Find out more about your local Parks and Open Spaces at the gov.uk website.