Wed, Oct-09-19, 01:02
If you go down to the woods today...it will banish the winter blues
If you go down to the woods today...it will banish the winter blues, say health experts
Spending time in nature even when the nights draw in can help alleviate the winter blues, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Forestry England have advised.
Leading psychiatrists and the largest provider of outdoor recreation in England are urging people to continue venturing outdoors this autumn and winter to improve their mental health.
One in three people in Britain suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as the days grow shorter but studies have shown that visiting forests can boost social, mental and physical health. Walking in nature also improves cognitive function and helps support the immune system.
However, one in five people who visit forests regularly say they never go in the wintertime.
“Spending time outdoors in nature, including in woodlands and forests, can really improve mental health,” said Dr Alan Kellas, a psychiatrist and lead for Green Care on the Royal College of Psychiatrists’s Sustainability Committee.
“Our senses are engaged differently, our attention changes, we naturally become more mindful, our mood settles if aroused or anxious, or lifts if low or depressed, our imagination can be sparked and we can gain a different perspective on our lives, projects and problems.
“Noticing the way trees grow and mature, their autumnal colours or winter skeletons, or the way wildlife adapts to seasons changing, can help slow our ruminating thoughts and help us see our place in the wider web of life.”
Anxiety and depression costs the UK economy an estimated £70-£100 million a year yet studies have shown that spending as little as two hours a week in nature is an effective evidence based strategy for maintaining good mental health.
Last month Forestry England announced 125 miles (200km) in new running trails through Britain’s forests to encourage people to get out into nature.
The organisation is also increasing the numbers of wildlife walks, archery, fitness classes for new mums, foraging workshops, wild women days, and yoga.
Ellen Devine is the Wellbeing Projects Manager at Forestry England, which is encouraging more people to visit forests as the nights draw in, said: “From the colours of autumn to the crisp frost of a winter’s morning, the forest is full of magical moments.
“While it can be tempting to retreat at this time of year, it’s so important to keep going outside and keep exploring. Even a short visit to the woods can work wonders for how we feel.”
The campaign was launched ahead of World Mental Health Day on Thursday.
Dr Liz O’Brien, Head of the Social and Economic Research Group at Forest Research, who has been researching how woodland can contribute to people’s health and wellbeing said: “Spending time in woodlands helps people develop social connections with others, and provides a wide range of sensory benefits as well as a chance to enjoy and observe seasonal changes in nature.”