Feeling better outside: Happy Valley therapy
Posted Friday 28 October 2011
Continuning our series of blogs supporting our autumn Ecominds campaign, Laura tells us about her relaxing countryside walk.
I went for a countryside walk last weekend with my lovely friend Amy. We went to Surrey and walked from Box Hill to Leatherhead. Box Hill is a town. It is also a hill, after which the town is named, which we walked up. The hill is called Box Hill because:
- It is a hill
- It has many box trees growing on it.
I had never heard of box trees before. I’m not exactly sure which ones they were, but I did notice a lot of gnarly twisted interesting-looking trees along the way. I imagine they were those. They were pretty exciting trees!
So, what’s this got to do with mental health?
A lot. Apparently hanging out in the countryside, especially when said hanging-out involves some sort of exercise, is very good for our mental health.
It doesn’t even need to be proper out-in-the-sticks countryside. Chilling with the trees and flowers, and maybe even some ducks, in your local park is excellent too. So is spending time in your garden. Growing stuff in your garden or on an allotment is even better. And, as an added bonus, growing your own fruit and vegetables is considered pretty cool these days. That’s why I do it...
Such outdoorsy pursuits in relation to mental health is sometimes called ‘ecotherapy’. I think this is a nice term. Research commissioned by Mind found that people experience decreased levels of tension and depression and higher self-esteem after a walk outside, as compared to a walk inside.
I’ve been hearing a lot about this lately because I’m lucky enough to work for Mind, and my colleague Ken is always banging on about our ‘Feel better outside, feel better inside’ campaign. That’s actually a pretty clever title, isn’t it?
Seriously, I do generally feel better inside, when I go outside. I’ve always loved the countryside, parks and greenery, so ecotherapy is second nature to me anyway. It always makes me feel more relaxed. Even if I’m not specifically in need of relaxation! I’m not sure why it works but it does.
I really felt like getting out of London at the weekend. I’ve been feeling pretty tense and agitated this week. My mood has been fairly up and down over the last few months, so I’m trying to look after myself by doing nice relaxing things. I’m also taking anti-depressants too… but I like to add a little natural therapy to the equation.
It was just nice to get away from the hustle and bustle, to get some fresh air, a bit of exercise and to notice all the things along the way. Apart from the box trees, we saw lots of exciting things: sheep, cows, horses, swans, bees, pretty flowers and maize. I really do love maize, it’s so big and awesome – standing next to it makes me feel like one of the borrowers.
It was also generally lovely to experience autumn in the countryside. It’s such a beautiful time of year, and the city doesn’t quite do it justice. As if all that wasn’t enough, I found a conker. This experience wasn’t quite the same without my brother being there to enter into any my-conker-is-bigger-than-yours bickering, as well as the fact I’m no longer eight years old, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Part of our walk was aptly named the Happy Valley, which made it all the better!
Although I was feeling tense this week, I’m otherwise in relatively good spirits. I know from my own experience it can be very hard to get up and do things when you’re not. But again, from my own experience, I’d say give it a try if you can, even if it’s just a stroll in your local park.
Remember, you too could experience these exciting sights if you go on a countryside walk.
You can also enter Mind’s nature photography competition. (I can't enter because I work for Mind.)
When I got home I watered the plants in my garden, which relieved my tension by, ooh... at least a further five percent, I’m sure. I then ate some of the tomatoes I’ve grown in my garden.
Hurrah! What a lovely day!
Catch up with Laura's blogs about mental health at: www.girlinconvenienced.wordpress.com
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