We often hear that spending time in nature is good for us, but do you know why? How much time do you spend outdoors? Modern life isn't always geared up for nature time, we work indoors, sit in cars or buses to get to work, spend evenings in our homes watching TV.
Research indicates that time spent in nature is connected to cognitive and mental health benefits, as well as improvements in mood and emotional well-being. The very act of being out in fresh air can cause a response in your brain that releases endorphins.
Physically, being in green spaces can lower cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, while blue areas and waterfronts can signal a reduction in stress hormones, causing a meditative effect. Spending time out in nature allows our brains to slow down. Being outdoors can improve your mood, increase your confidence and self-esteem and help you feel more connected to your community.
Studies have shown that even just 120 minutes a week can help to improve your wellbeing and health, and those two hours don't need to be all at once either.
Nature time doesn't have to be complicated - it could just be a walk in a nearby park, some time gardening or strolling by the river. If you are looking for some more ideas for getting out in nature this summer, here are our five favourites!
Whether it's taking a dip in a lake, going out on a river swim or braving the colds of the ocean, wild swimming is hugely popular right now. Wild and cold water swimming in particular boost the immune system. They boost the white blood cell count, forcing the body to react, and over time, your body becomes better at activating this. It also activates endorphins and improves circulation.
If you are looking for an easy, fun family activity over the summer holidays, why not pack up a picnic? It's a wonderful way to spend time outdoors - you can picnic wherever you like - a local park or river, maybe you want to drive up onto the moors or hills. Food always tastes better eaten outdoors, you can relax and let go of your stress and it's a fantastic way to bond as a family too.
If you haven't come across the term before, 'forest bathing' is the simple concept of spending quiet, mindful time in nature to improve your wellbeing. This relaxation practice was developed in Japan, and it invites you to take notice of the natural world, breathe deeply and calm your mind. Find a forest near you to take a walk in. Turn off your phone, music, leave the camera behind and just be present. Use your senses - touch the trees, listen to the birds, notice what you see and smell.
Visit the beach
Make the most of hot, sunny days over the summer to visit the beach. A day at the beach always leaves you feeling relaxed and chilled out, you can boost your vitamin d levels, a barefoot walk on the sand is surprisingly good for you physically and the high levels of various minerals found in the water may help fight infection, offer therapeutic effects, and potentially help the body heal and detoxify.
One of the most fun, wholesome things you can do on a summer’s day is fruit picking with the family. It’s enjoyable, gets you out of the house and moreover – you’ll get to eat some locally-sourced food! It's a fun way to spend an hour or two outdoors, surrounded by nature. There are pick your own farms all over the country, with a variety of produce available to pick - it's also a great way to encourage your kids to eat healthily!