11 Apr, 2024

The Benefits Of Getting Outdoors

As the Lincolnshire Wolds Outdoor Festival gears up for its launch in May, we spoke to outdoor gear specialist and Wolds resident Jim De’Ath of Valley and Peak to ask the question ‘What are the benefits of being in the great outdoors?’

When people ask this question, I’m always staggered as to me, being outdoors is the preferable environment I would choose to be in most of the time if I could. The rush of fresh air, the beauty that unfolds around you, there’s simply nothing like it and it’s hard to beat simply venturing out.

Those who prefer to stay indoors are truly missing out. There’s no pressure to do so, but getting out into nature is one of the most healing, relaxing and beneficial things you can do with your time. If you’re curious as to why, then simply read on.

Science says so -  There’s obviously the scientific benefits which include the exposure to fresh air and sunlight, which we could all do with these days. Reports out there say that a majority of the UK is actually deficient in Vitamin D, which is essential for the immune system as well as general health and can be easily remedied by simply spending time in the sunlight. Just five or ten minutes outdoors can make a massive difference and is all you need to absorb essential nutrients and minerals more efficiently.

For those with little ones that are also concerned about screen time, taking the family into the countryside can do wonders for their health and can get them away from constant mobile device use. Whether it’s video games, tablets or phones, a day outdoors is a great distraction and can be treated like an adventure. If kids are reluctant to get outside then make it into a challenge, how many different leaves can they find? Can they count how many different kinds of birds they spot? Could you create some sort of treasure hunt? It doesn’t matter under what pretense it happens, once they are out there, they will soon forget why they were protesting in the first place.

Your mental health and wellbeing - Sunlight and green space has an almost magical effect on reducing stress. It’s a real opportunity to practice mindfulness and to reflect rather than ruminate on your thoughts. I recently attended an event featuring The Outdoor Guide in conversation with wellbeing expert Lisa Pauley. During the discussion, Pauley introduced the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, a powerful tool for practicing mindfulness outdoors. The technique involves engaging your senses by observing five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Try it next time you’re on a walk!

Being outdoors and moving at a slower rate means you have the time to slow down, focus and almost free your mind of distractions.

Exercising gently and with purpose also improves sleep. In fact, many who get outdoors and camp have expressed having their best night's sleep ever under the stars. Personally I can see how that might happen, a night spent free of phones, TV, emails and distractions really calms the mind and can make you feel truly peaceful.

There’s also the social side, relationships gained through outdoor activities and meeting new people with similar values can be such a grounding experience and one that you can combine with the health and exercise benefits. Talking and making friends is made much easier outside of a formal setting and engaging in conversations during a walk is super helpful for those battling mental health blocks such as social anxiety or mild depression.

Sure, it doesn't solve the problem, but in sharing our thoughts with others, we're dropping some of that weight and if you’re adding fresh air and feeling fit into the mix, that’s all the better, right?

Connecting with nature - Nature is one of the great levelers when it comes to awareness of natural rhythms/ cycles of life. For example, simply observing the beautiful changing seasons in the UK can be a real wonder. In the winter we often leave and return home in darkness and we don’t make the effort to go outside, or even look outside.

If you’re not careful, then seasons can come and go unnoticed. Also just having a pure appreciation of our extremes of weather, both sunny spells and terrific storms can really give you a sense of just how insignificant your problems can be.

There’s also that hard to capture feeling of freedom that cannot be replicated when indoors, especially if you live in a city or in suburbia. There are fewer boundaries and as long as you respect nature, you never quite know what you will find, discover or get to explore.

So what next?

Nobody is saying you have to suddenly turn into Ben Fogle or Ray Mears, but getting out for short walks and even discovering the immediate area around you can lead you on to exploring further. Local authorities and even private landowners make it easy to set off and tackle walking or more involved hiking easily. It’s amazing just how much there is to explore on your own doorstep. If you’ve never taken the jump to start exploring then start off by finding parks in your area that you’ve never visited before and take a look around.

When you’re feeling more adventurous, there’s a whole host of options available, whether this is exploring set circular routes in your local area or getting more brave and exploring further afield.

A great place to start is to see what the Wolds Outdoor Festival has on offer, whether that’s birdwatching, guided walks or even gliding, there’s nothing like being outside and if you live in the Wolds or fancy visiting, this is a great way to kick off your outdoors journey.

For more information on outdoor gear and advice, visit valleyandpeak.co.uk

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