This year, it’s been more important than ever to most of us to spend time outdoors. Outdoor activities are proven by scientific study to help improve both physical and mental health, and can help you destress and relax. If you have your own garden then you have all sorts of options, from growing your own vegetables to family ball games. For those of us without access to our own outdoor space though, it can be a little harder to plan. We’ve come up with some ideas to help you make the most of the great outdoors.
This form of outdoor mindfulness originated in Japan, where it’s known as shinrin-yoku. The official definition is ‘making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest’, but it’s really a form of relaxation. It involves being calm and quiet among the trees while being aware of your surroundings, such as the way grass or tree bark grows or the noises the insects make. It’s suitable for adults and children. Many locations around the UK now hold introductory courses or experiences, or you can just head out to your nearest forest with no agenda and plenty of time!
Pack a picnic
From champagne and strawberries to sandwiches in greaseproof, food seems to taste better outdoors. How you do it is entirely to you – whether you prefer a big, sociable event in the local park with everyone bringing a dish, or an intimate tete-a-tete by a river, it’s bound to make you feel relaxed. If you’re not used to packing picnics then our top tip would be to keep it simple and choose robust food which doesn’t mind being thrown around a bit! Insect repellent, a blanket and a packet of wet wipes are all useful additions.
If you’ve got somewhere safe to go, then take a few friends and go star gazing. You can look up the names of the stars on a website or app or just relax and look at the sky. Being outdoors at night if you’re not used to it can be a deeply soothing experience. It may be summer, but you’ll still need warm clothes and ideally a hot drink!
There currently seems to be a lot of choice available, as venues move classes outside for safety reasons. Many venues hold a choice of events, such as high-energy dance classes to tai chi and yoga so you can choose what’s right for you. If that doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, then seek out local walking and rambling groups and enjoy the company of new people.
Again, this is one you can do on your own or as part of an organised group. Organised nature walks, tree identification and bird watching experiences may be on offer at your local park, or you can get a book from the library and teach yourself. Birds are more active first thing in the morning, so it’s worth an early start! If you have a knowledgeable friend, you could try and persuade them to take your group out for a lesson in exchange for tea and cake.
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll need appropriate footwear (boots or trainers), some sunscreen (except for the star gazing!) and a bottle of water to help you get the most from your time outdoors.
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