World Mental Health Day: Exercise, nature and the outdoors

Spending time in nature enhances our mental wellbeing (Photo: WTML / John MacPherson)
Spending time in nature enhances our mental wellbeing (Photo: WTML / John MacPherson)

There is abundant scientific evidence that exposure to nature results in enhanced mental wellbeing. Spending time in nature reduces anxiety, helps with depression and increases mental functioning such as attention span and memory. Exercising in nature can lift your mood and empower you, helping you to face the stresses and strains of modern life. With 10 October 2017 marking World Mental Health Day, make the most of what nature has to offer, and get outdoors!

Tips and activities

There are lots of great ways to increase your contact with nature and improve your mental health, even with the busy lives we lead.

1. Go for a walk in the woods

Make some time to get out in nature, as there is nothing quite like being surrounded by greenery, hearing the birds singing and the bees buzzing. Even if it’s just a visit to a local park it all helps, and when you have a little more time you could explore slightly further and find a nature reserve or a wood near you.

2. Outdoor play and family exploration

It is so important that young people are connected with nature through experiencing the outdoors, seeing the beauty it has to offer and learning about the incredible diversity of life. Check out our Nature Detectives pages for a list of events and downloadable activity sheets to take with you on your adventures.

Spend quality time together exploring the great outdoors (Photo: WTML / Michael Heffernan)
Spend quality time together exploring the great outdoors (Photo: WTML / Michael Heffernan)

Explore, exercise and enjoy nature.

Find your nearest woods

We offer a variety of volunteering roles to help you get closer to nature (Photo: Brian Legg/WTML)
We offer a variety of volunteering roles to help you get closer to nature (Photo: Brian Legg/WTML)

3. Nature-based volunteering

A recent study by the University of Essex found that mental wellbeing of volunteers significantly improved after 12 weeks of taking part in nature conservation work. There are many conservation activities that you can take part in, from habitat management to public engagement and information. The Woodland Trust has many opportunities for you to get involved.

4. Citizen science

Taking part in a citizen science project provides a great opportunity to learn more about nature and pay special attention to what is going on in the natural world. Whatever your interest there is bound to be a project that needs you! Our own Nature’s Calendar project covers a variety of plant and animal species you can monitor to record key events throughout the year.

5. Help nature at home

You don’t have to go far for a nature experience – nature can come to you if the conditions are right! You can plant native trees and flowers in your garden to attract birds and insects, provide bird feeders and put out food, water and shelter for hedgehogs. Children can get involved in building a bug hotel. There are lots of ideas on our blog, such as making your garden wildlife friendly, and things you can buy from our shop.

As you can see there is no reason why nature can’t be a part of your everyday life, and you can benefit from the calming and restorative powers that nature brings. 

Take care of your mental health.

Explore woods near you