01 May 2020

Did you know, being outdoors for just 15 minutes can have a positive impact on your mental health?

So, as we’re currently taking part in the #TwoPointSixChallenge, I decided to spend 26 minutes outdoors for 2.6 days (okay, it was three). Nearly double the daily dose of feel good vibes can’t be bad for you, hey?!

My relationship with my mental health has always felt a little bit like a rollercoaster ride. There’s ups and downs, there’s corkscrews that make my tummy twist into knots, and loop-the-loops that make my brain feel like it’s going to burst out my head. Now, more than ever, I find my mental health teetering on the edge of a big-dipper style drop, myself a passenger in the carriage, screaming to get off.

It’s so important to recognise the huge benefits of being outdoors, for young people and adults alike, on both physical and mental health. From exercising, to gardening, growing vegetables and being outdoors mindfully. The great outdoors can: improve your mood, reduce stress and anger, help you to be more active, improve your confidence and self-esteem, make you feel more relaxed, help you to make new connections and help you to overcome barriers you’re facing.

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” Edward Abbey

Currently, at time of writing, the UK faces its sixth week of lockdown, due to COVID-19. The advice on leaving your house remains the same. You are allowed to leave your house (if you are able to, and it’s safe for you to do so) for an hour or so of exercise every day. Now is the time to get outdoors, even if for only 15 minutes a day, to re-connect with the world around you.

So, is the outdoors really a positive mental health game-changer?

Day 1

Top tip number one. Don’t attempt to run a 5k without stopping, if you’ve never run a 5k before (and have significantly reduced fitness, due to significantly increased banana bread consumption). If you’ve been *lucky* enough to be tagged in the 5k challenge, you’ll know what I’m talking about! So, I put my trainers on, worked out how I could run exactly 5k, and not a metre more, and off I went.

I’d dreaded this for such a long time and had built it up in my head, however found myself… (semi) enjoying it! Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be signing up for the London Marathon anytime soon. However, I did enjoy being out in the fresh air, listening to my music and focusing solely on the road in front of me, placing each foot down one at a time, concentrating on my breathing and temporarily forgetting about anything else that had been worrying me that day.

Day 2

I decided today was a day for walking, as my legs were a little (a lot) sore from my run! I popped on a podcast and decided not to plan a route, taking each and every left vs right decision as I arrived at it. As a “planner” this was out of character for me, however taking the stress out of planning a route, not knowing exactly where I was going to go, and why I was going there, was freeing.

I enjoyed seeing the lovely NHS banners strung up around the fences and chalk paintings on the pavements. I enjoyed seeing other people out for their daily walks and made an effort to smile at everyone I passed, everyone smiled back. I enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine on my face and seeing the blossom trees in bloom.

As I approached the woods, I felt like a child again as I purposefully headed towards leaves and twigs, so I could listen to them crunch beneath my feet. I stopped to admire the Bluebells as the sun shone down on them through the trees, changing their colour from blue to purple, and back again. I temporarily forgot about everything that had been worrying me that day.

Day 2.6 / 3

I’ve been missing attending my regular spin classes after work (a sentence I’m sure my spin instructor never though he’d hear me say!) But have since fallen in love with cycling. I didn’t know if I’d be able to replace the “buzz” I used to get from a spin class with my friends, with a solo ride through the Chiltern Hills, but the sunset and stunning scenery definitely hit the spot.

I cycled through places I have never been before, up hills I had never noticed before, saw lambs and cows I never knew inhabited those particular fields before, and I saw the most beautiful sunset, which I stopped briefly to view (it had nothing to do with the aforementioned deceiving hills…)

I temporarily forgot about everything that had been worrying me that day.

So, is the outdoors really a positive mental health game-changer? The answer, for me, is a resounding yes.

What is the #TwoPointSixChallenge and how can I get involved?

The 2.6 challenge was launched on 26th April 2020 (the day the 26.2-mile London Marathon was due to take place). The London Marathon is one of the single biggest fundraising events for charities. Last year, £66.4 million was raised for thousands of charities across the UK.

Now, UK charities need your help! At time of writing, the total amount raised by the challenge stands at £7,638,033.06 – an incredible contribution so far.

Anyone can take on the challenge and get creative, whether it’s outdoors or indoors. Perhaps you can bake 26 cakes, do 26 star-jumps, stay silent for 26 hours (or just 2.6 minutes). Don’t forget to share your ideas with us, tagging @WoodrowHighHouse on social media and of course using the hashtag #TwoPointSixChallenge.

Take a look at the official website here and do something amazing today, by supporting charities that need your help now.

Written by Evie Edwards