I love being outside. I love a big sky. I love it when it’s windy, rainy, sunny, snowy (as long as I have the right clothes on). I am NOT, as my husband would testify, a home bird in any sense of the word. I would far rather be out and about, exploring somewhere new, than be at home.
I found lockdown a challenge. It was brilliant to discover places close to home that I had never found before, but I felt less than myself without the freedom to explore. So, now we are able to roam once more, I’ve been thinking about my favourite ways to spend time outside.
Which one of these might you say yes to?
Forest bathing – first conceived in Japan, ‘shinrin-yoku’ has grown in popularity around the world, including the UK in recent years. Indeed, in Japan, many people presenting to their doctor with symptoms of mild depression will be given a prescription of ’shinrin-yoku’ before any medical intervention.
Forest bathing is, pretty much, as described. Find a space to sit among trees and immerse all your senses in the nature around you. Look around and see all the different colours and shades, tune into your hearing and let all the sounds wash over you. Maybe even take your shoes and socks off and really feel the ground beneath your feet.
The key to forest bathing is really its lack of purpose – you’re deliberately not trying to get anywhere, you’re simply spending time among trees. Try it, I promise you’ll feel calmer and more rested.
Kicking up leaves – it’s the perfect time of year for this one and, if you want to channel your inner Peppa or George Pig, you could go even further and jump in some muddy puddles!
There’s something so joyful and childlike about getting out in the trees and kicking up leaves. The really brilliant thing about this is that it doesn’t matter where you live, there are parks and trees in every town and city across the country. Of course, for the leaf kicking connoisseur, there are ideal conditions – those cold and sunny autumn days we often have during November in the UK – so that the piles of leaves are beautiful and crisp and make a really satisfying sound as they ‘whoosh’ up into the air.
If you feel a bit silly about giving this one a try, take some kids with you (could be yours or someone else’s you have permission to borrow!) They’ll get stuck in immediately and soon you will be running and jumping in the leaves too…
Walking for a reason – have you ever tried walking for different reasons? Maybe you want to just get some miles in, maybe you want some space to think, maybe you’re walking for fitness, maybe you’re strolling with friends.
For me, there’s a time and a place for each type of walk. This year I’ve signed up for the #walk1000miles challenge so there are many occasions when I’m walking primarily to get the miles in (especially when work gets busy which means walking a small amount every day isn’t possible.) But sometimes, and almost paradoxically when work is at its busiest, I’ll go for a little wander round the block, letting my mind wander.
Whatever your reason, don’t overthink it… just go!
Meditation outdoors – if you can get over the slight weirdness you’ll almost inevitably feel when you first try this, I promise it’s an amazing experience! There are lots of groups around the country that practice meditation outdoors, it’s a key part of any Fresh Air Fridays session to name just one, however you can also give this a go by yourself.
Download an app like Headspace or Calm or Insight Timer, take your phone and some headphones out with you, find a quiet spot where you’re unlikely to be disturbed and begin! Meditation can be done standing, sitting or lying down so, depending on where you are and how comfortable you feel, settle down and plug your headphones in.
If you’re not feeling so brave and have some outside space at home, give it a try there first. Even if meditation feels a little alien to you, there’s definitely some magic to be had by giving it a go outside!
Wild swimming – this year I have pulled on my big girl pants and tried something new – swimming outdoors. It took ages for me to be brave enough, but I’ve now dipped and swum in rivers, lakes and the sea.
I’ve swum by myself, rekindled friendships swimming with others and thoroughly enjoyed the amazing feelings that are sparked by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and getting into (sometimes!) very cold water. It’s like nothing else I’ve done and I thoroughly recommend it (safely, of course).
To take it to the next level, maybe you could combine a walk with a swim – there are so many beautiful places to get in the water all around the UK. Go on, you know you want to…!
By Saranne Postans for Alive!
Saranne has worked in communications for more than 20 years and is currently working on the STEP programme, a UKAEA project to design and build a fusion energy plant somewhere in the UK. She is also a qualified coach, with an absolute passion for nature and the benefits it offers for our wellbeing.