World Mental Health Day

10th October 2022

It’s World Mental Health Day. A great opportunity to shine a light on the importance of mental health, how we can look after it and how important it is to talk about things and seek help if you are struggling.

In the People in the Outdoors Monitor Northern Ireland (POMNI) Survey, the findings highlighted the clear link between enjoying outdoor spaces and good mental and physical health with 73% of respondents stating the primary motivation for visiting the outdoors was ‘to get some exercise’ and/or ‘for health and fitness’. In addition, 65% felt calm and relaxed and 32% felt closer to nature following visits to the outdoors.
This data was later explored further

Some of the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Best Mental Health Tips Backed by Research’ are to get closer to nature, keep moving, be curious and open-minded to new experiences, and plan things to look forward to.

Get Closer to Nature

Nature can have a super calming effect on us. We can’t explain it but there is a huge sense of relief and calm when we get out into a natural environment. Did you know that going for a walk was the UK adults’ favourite way of coping with stress during the Covid-19 pandemic? Alternatives to walking in nature include forest-bathing; a new phenomenon started in Japan that is sweeping the nation. We don’t mean taking a literal bath in the forest but rather, being in a woodland or forest area and metaphorically bathing in the sights, smells, textures and sounds around you.
41% of people in Northern Ireland say that connecting with nature is a key motivator for getting outdoors.

Keep Moving

Although sometimes treated differently, our minds and bodies are very much connected. Helping ourselves physically can also help prevent problems with our mental health. There are lots of ways to move your body; walking, cycling, canoeing, mountain biking and exploring new outdoor places. Exercise, even in low impact forms, releases those “feel good” hormones that can combat feelings of anger or stress, and it’s even better again if we participate with others.

Be Curious and Open-Minded to New Experiences

Sometimes routines are great but sometimes we can get stuck in a rut of doing the same things over and over which can make us feel a bit bored and low. The same can be said for our thoughts, if we get into a pattern of talking negatively to ourselves. Instead of consistently thinking “things never get any better”, we should try “things can change for the better” and take control. How about trying a new experience and using to find a new outdoor place to visit that you’ve never been before using the interactive map.

Plan Things to Look Forward to

It isn’t always easy to plan for the future as life can throw all sorts at us when we least expect it but having something to look forward to can help us cope in tricky situations. It doesn’t have to be a big trip or take lots of organising, it can be as simple as looking for a new outdoor place to explore and planning where to visit well in advance.

For more information on Mental Health, please visit the Mental Health Foundation.