The great outdoors is the world’s best wellbeing centre, and the price of admission is completely free. It’s a place to discover, to switch off, to kick stress into the long grass and to unwind. This year, National Relaxation Day falls on a Sunday (15th August). What better time to get outdoors and practice some mindfulness? If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are some ideas of how you can escape into the wild and slip into a deep state of relaxation.
When it comes to looking after our bodies and our minds, it’s no secret that the outdoors has remarkable effects. Our bodies soak up Vitamin D in the sun, natural light helps to regulate our sleep schedules and exercise helps to boost endorphins and lower stress hormones. Mentally, nature helps us to unwind as we leave busy, mentally challenging settings and immerse ourselves in a simple yet beautiful environment. We can improve our mental state further by practicing mindful activities, which help you focus on a single task or thought and allow you to feel more present in the moment. If you’re new to mindfulness, you can learn more about it in this blog from Headspace.
Meditation is a peaceful activity that helps you to be more present and engaged in whatever you’re doing. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on a yoga mat. It can be done on the train, on your sofa, in bed – wherever you feel you can relax without any distractions.
One of the best places to meditate is outside. Try sitting somewhere comfortable, close your eyes and focus solely on things that you can hear, smell and feel. If you find your mind wanders, which it probably will, then just bring your focus back to the senses. After 10 minutes you’ll open your eyes feeling refreshed, relaxed and more in tune with nature.
If you would prefer to relax on the go, try focussing your attention on the wildlife you encounter next time you leave the house. Often we walk with our minds full of distraction, which can make us blind to our surroundings. You might be surprised by how many creatures you see when you’re looking out for them.
Alternatively, you could try litter picking. The narrow focus of looking for litter will help you to switch off and you'll get a boost from knowing you’ve helped improve the environment for other people and the local wildlife.
Go it alone or round up a handful of friends for a camping trip and agree to put your phones in a bag switched off or on silent. Unplugging yourself from social media and the internet will help you relax and be more engaged in conversations and activities.
A study by the University of California1 found that people who received a steady stream of messages throughout the day on electronic devices had higher heart rates than those who were cut off from electronic communication. Even if you spend just one day away from tech, you’ll definitely feel the benefit.
Yoga became one of the most popular lockdown hobbies during the pandemic thanks to its wonderfully relaxing effects on the body. Whether you’re an experienced yogi or a complete novice, there are organisations and charities like Park Yoga that run open-to-all classes in the outdoors.
You’ll learn new skills, improve your fitness and meet new people. All of which will have a positive impact on your levels of relaxation and mental health. Just think how much more you’ll enjoy your weekend knowing that you’ve had done something good for yourself in the morning.
Go for a Walk or Run
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones. If you don’t have the time to do anything else, just getting outdoors will do you the world of good. Do it alone or with friends, in a local park or up a mountain – it really doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you’re out and taking in the benefits that the outdoors so generously offers. If you can switch off your phone, great! And if you can try and be in the moment as you move, even better!
What do you do to relax in the outdoors? Share your tips in the comments or on our social media channels.
1. Mark, Gloria & Voida, Stephen & Cardello, Armand. (2012). "A pace not dictated by electrons": An empirical study of work without email. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings. 10.1145/2207676.2207754.