Make the most of the great outdoors, indoors – Dr David Crichton

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and we focused on the importance of looking after both your physical and as important your mental health during the current coronavirus outbreak. I hope you have been kind to other as well as yourselves and taken the time to consider how you have been feeling and sort support and advice if needed.

We are seeing some lovely weather in the UK and I hope that you are able to take time to enjoy it while it lasts. Being outdoors can improve our physical health through the various activities we can enjoy, be that walking, cycling or sat in the back garden. It can also boost our mental wellbeing which is so important at the moment.

Reports show that spending time outdoors and taking part in nature-based activities helps boost our mental health and sense of wellbeing. It can contribute to a reduction in feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. The positive effects of exercising outdoors or growing food or flowers, can include:

(Source: MIND, Nature and mental health)

I certainly find that being outdoors, be that on a walk, cycle ride or working in the garden, helps me feel relaxed and also provides a quiet space to help me think things through. I enjoy hearing the birds and experiencing the changing sights, sounds and smells as spring starts to turn into summer.

A new survey by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) shows that nearly three-quarters of people who have access to a garden, courtyard or balcony say it has helped them cope during the lockdown.

Gardens, plants and green spaces can help us all feel more connected with nature and feeling connected is vital for our wellbeing. Gardening, walking or just being outdoors reading a book can be a great stress-buster.

If you are unable to venture outdoors, for example if you are shielded, the next best thing is to ‘visit’ a online garden. The National Garden Scheme has a number of virtual garden visits available. You can also watch coverage on television of the Chelsea Flower Show from previous years; the show was due to take place last week but has had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. So as you can see, there’s lots of ways you can enjoy the outdoors, indoors.

For those of you with children, there’s lots of inspiration available. Growing tips and easy seeds to grow with children and now is the perfect time to start sowing your salad crops and herbs and maybe a few sunflowers if you have a sunny spot. You can grow cress on a windowsill and don’t need lots of space to do this.

The great outdoors can provide inspiration, relaxation, colour and energy. There’s something for everyone to boost your mental and physical wellbeing.

But please enjoy the outdoors sensibly by protecting yourself from the sun; wearing a hat, applying regular sun cream, keeping to shaded areas and by following the government’s latest guidelines on coronavirus to keep us safe:

‘Stay Alert’
Be aware of the threat of Coronavirus and continue to keep 2 metres apart from other people. Only go out for medicines, treatment, daily exercise or essential food.

‘Control the virus’
Keep away from others, avoid crowds of people and be careful; doing this will try and avoid a second spike of cases.

You are allowed to leave your house for walks, jogs and you can sit in public places (at a safe distance from other people). There is no restriction on how many times a day you exercise, but please be sensible.

Keep your distance from others, use your common sense and only leave your house for essential shopping and daily exercise. Remember also to keep washing your hands regularly for twenty seconds with soap.

By doing this, we can stay well and ‘Save Lives.’

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