#childrensmhw 2017 | Walking in Nature
I’m not a morning person.
As I wake, my eyes briefly flutter open and then gently close again as my mind slowly wakes up and whirls into action; the days ‘thinking’ begins.
From the moment I wake, my mind and brain are always thinking; what to have for tea* (it’s only 8am!), what household chores need doing, what work needs completing, what children need to be where and when, where I NEED to be and when! It’s a constant barrage of personal computing and I haven’t even opened my eyes!
Only this week is different. I am on holiday. We booked this 5-day getaway purposefully to ‘get away’……to get away from people, to get away from work, to get away from chores, to get away from ‘thinking’ and our everyday lives. When we booked our mini holiday to Northumberland, we hoped for snow, and lots of it! We wanted to be snowed in with a red hot, roaring and crackling log fire to keep us company, a good book and snowy walks in the countryside. Sounds romantic, sounds blissful, sounds perfect!
Having checked the forecast before we left, it seemed impossible that we would see snow. If we did it would be the first of the winter.
Imagine my delight when, on our last full day, my husband woke me yesterday morning, excitedly saying “It’s been snowing”. There was no personal computing about what the day would hold. Instead, I jumped out of bed, raced to the window and, there before me in all it’s beautiful glory, was the picture perfect postcard snowy view of the Northumberland fields and hills.
I couldn’t wait to get outside.
We wrapped ourselves up warm and headed off to explore with the crunch under our feet, the blast of cold on our cheeks and a desire to be outside. We strolled through the narrow slushy lanes, over icy fields and meandering pathways until we arrived at Meg’s Lake. It was hard to believe we had barbequed our breakfast here just 4 days previously (yes, in February!), the stones that were placed there for seats now crowned in snow, the BBQ no longer red hot, but icy cold. How much a place can change in such a short period of time!
It’s wonderful being outside, isn’t it? Even when I am at home I take so much pleasure in being outside, whether walking, running, cycling or gardening. It makes me feel so much better, calmer, more peaceful, happier as the busyness of my mind slows down.
It’s proven** that being in nature is good for you. This doesn’t have to be the hills and fields of the countryside; it can be your garden or local park. Coupled with this, if you are outside you are likely to be ‘moving’, and exercise is good for us too.
This is children’s mental health awareness week, and it is about being aware of what we can do to look after our, and our children’s, mental health. Being outside and exercise are two key ingredients we can add into our lives to look after ourselves. From young children to older adults, it is something we can all benefit from. Today’s lifestyle doesn’t really help us to promote either of these elements in our daily lives, so it really is up to us to find a way to embrace both nature and exercise, welcome them, and make them an integral part of our everyday living.
Whilst I have been on holiday, I have done a little bit of re-evaluation. Holidays are good for this, aren’t they? I’ve looked at how my life is, and how I want it to be. I know that my ‘balance’ isn’t quite right. I’ve known it for some time now. I haven’t been feeling my usual bubbly self, a little bit ‘stressed’ by work, by the length of some of my work days. I’ve felt a little bit suffocated and overwhelmed. I’ve known it, but I haven’t known what to do about it. What I have realised is that being outside and exercising have been missing from my life for the last few months.
A couple of years ago I learnt to run 5k. I’d always believed I couldn’t run distances, but with the help of a friend, I trained and built up my stamina and strength in order to be able to run York Race 4 Life 5k. I loved it! It seems rather sad knowing that I spent 44 years of my life telling myself I couldn’t run, when I hadn’t really tried, I hadn’t got the right help and I hadn’t trained properly. For me, running means freedom, it means being outside, it means feeling energised and healthy, it means I make better food choices and my mind is calmer, it ultimately means a better me! So, through my re-evaluation, I know that I need to add exercise and being outdoors back into my life, if only for my own sanity!
Before I came away, my friend, who is a dog-walker, asked if I had time for a catch up. I went on one of her dog walks with her as it was the only time we both had. It was brilliant! A walk and a chat with my friend; what could be better? We agreed that I would join her on this dog walk every Friday. It means I get to see my friend, we regularly get to chat (and we chatted more than normal whilst walking!), it’s exercise and it means being outside!
Look for opportunities to add these things into your life, to enrich your life and to look after your emotional (any physical) wellbeing.
*For readers who are not from Yorkshire / the North of England, ‘tea’ is the term we use to describe ‘dinner’, i.e. the evening meal.
** If you are interested in reading some of the studies, here are a few to get you started:
- Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors?
- A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study
- Going outdoors daily predicts long-term functional and health benefits among ambulatory older people.