Mental Health & Physical Well-being
Adventure and the Advantages of the Natural Environment.
In this article, I would like to explore the beneficial relationship between Mental Health & Physical Well-being, and the natural environment, how the two things are interconnected, and produce the perfect opportunity to discover what works for you and others in travel and everyday life.
This is one of the core elements of my desire to provide high-quality adventure tours and wellbeing breaks in the wild and natural environments and landscapes of Scotland.
What is mental health and well-being?
Mental health includes our emotional well-being, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood in creating positive emotions and experiences.
“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living, and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection, and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities, and societies throughout the world.”
How can physical health & activity help my mental health?
Be physically active
There are many studies that have shown that doing physical activity can improve mental health and that both can go hand in hand in promoting Mental Health & Physical Well-being.
From improved sleep and happier moods to managing stress, anxiety, or intrusive and racing thoughts, and reducing the risk of depression (studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression).
5 steps to mental wellbeing (Ref: NHS.uk)
- Connect with other people. Good relationships are important for your mental & physical wellbeing.
- Be physically active. Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness.
- Learn new skills.
- Give to others – positive relationship building, .
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness).
Experiences and activities that can promote mental health and physical well-being:
From soft adventure travel and activities to hard adventure travel and activities, there is always a way to engage and benefit both physically and mentally, from mindful walks in the Scottish woodlands or forests, to navigating the wild rapids on a white water rafting adventure – the perfect wellbeing escape.
It is the combination of nature and activity that can provide the most rewarding results in physical and mental well-being; we just have to explore the wide range of options to find what is best suited, and possibly even discover some new interests and passions along the way.
What can these activities offer to aid mental health & physical well-being?
Here is a small selection of activities and the benefits I perceive them to hold for the participants in both the short and long term, providing us with the tools and understanding to integrate these things into our everyday lives.
The soft side of adventure:
Walking – taking time out to enjoy a walk is the obvious starting point, a great way to immerse yourself in the outdoors, refocus on your surroundings rather than the thoughts and stress of work or day-to-day life. A perfect time to process thoughts and ideas, discussing and resolving or reducing a subject to a more manageable state or size.
At the same time, a walk can be a great way to introduce an element of Mindfulness into your life, focusing on the finer details of a walk, your steps, the terrain, bird song and other sounds of nature can all help put you into a more relaxed mental and physical state – a natural wellbeing escape.
Some trail walking inspiration: https://www.uniqueadventuretoursscotland.co.uk/adventure-activity-tours-scotland/trail-walking-in-scotland/
Yoga – Yoga is known for its ability to ease stress, promote relaxation, help psychological well-being, and aid Mental Health & Physical Well-being. Many studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, but it’s not all just science.
Having practiced yoga myself for many years, I have found it another great way to zone out of the everyday and focus on the moment, immersed in the flow of the postures and poses, letting my mind and body relax and strengthen, developing and maintaining personal well-being.
Local Yoga Teacher & Instructor Tina Logan provides a number of options to get you moving: http://fernbankhouse.co.uk/yoga/
Paddleboarding – A relatively new sport, stand-up paddleboarding has wide scope for helping with Mental Health & Physical Well-being, whether as a solo activity or with a group.
Paddleboarding is simple to learn and gives great access to the natural environment, from Lochs and Lakes to Coastal and River journeys.
An excellent combination of balance and movement gives you the physical element, toning muscles, and developing skills. Paddleboarding can burn more calories in an hour than most sports because it incorporates all the key elements of a full-body workout: strength, balance, core, and endurance.
The mental benefits of Paddleboarding provide a low impact, repetitive motion while deep breathing in nature. The combination of this repetitive motion combined with breathing in fresh air while out on the water can very quickly get you into a zen state.
Further info on getting involved in Paddleboarding on the following page: https://www.uniqueadventuretoursscotland.co.uk/perthshire-paddleboarding/
Wild Swimming – Mind estimates approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and around 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
Whilst swimming, in general, has a clear propensity to improve psychological wellbeing, research suggests that swimming outdoors in cold water is particularly good for us. Here are a number of core benefits that have been identified by research so far.
+ Improved stress response
+ Mindfulness and being present
+ Confidence, resilience, and bravery
+ Increased dopamine response
A fantastic article to read here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/cold-comfort-how-sea-swimming-boosts-my-mental-health/
The hard side of adventure:
Climbing – this may seem like a more intense form of relaxation and mindfulness, but I have found that the effort and focus that is required at any level of climbing, gives you the perfect opportunity to clear everything else out of your mind, and focus on movement, environment and the route in hand.
Not only an excellent way to exercise your body, develop new skills and conquer fears, climbing offers a calm mind and time to reconnect with the moment, being present in your adventure.
Climbing offers a wealth of health benefits that are not just physical. It improves your self-esteem, mental agility, and self-awareness. It’s a great stress-buster and a full-body workout, so it’s good for general wellbeing.
BMC Article on the Health benefits of climbing and hill walking: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/health-benefits-of-climbing-and-hill-walking
White Water Rafting – White water rafting offers an adventurous and physically demanding way to explore nature’s beauty while digging into the great depths of calm and still or the wild waters of a river.
Apart from the adrenaline rush and fun, this activity has loads of therapeutic and health benefits.
For example, patients suffering from insomnia, anxiety, and PTSD have recorded a drastic reduction in the need to use medications during and after their trips.
Stress Reduction, Improved Self Esteem, a Sense of Well Being and a Better Night’s Sleep are all equally evident benefits of white water rafting, and most adventure activities in general, from Mountain Biking to Canyoning, it seems very much the combination of activity, nature, focus, and fun all go to mix the perfect recipe for improved Mental Health & Physical Well-being.