There is nothing so simple yet so joyful as spending time in the fresh air. From enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of a woodland walk, to immersing ourselves in the wonders of nature’s hills, rivers and greenery, the great outdoors can be the cure to a myriad of problems.
Studies have shown that just five minutes outdoors can boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing – crucial during these uncertain times – and provides the perfect opportunity for a healthy dose of exercise at the same time.
There are several ways to make more of time spent outside, including powerwalking, meditation, forest bathing, outdoor yoga, and breathing techniques.
The joys of nature cannot be underestimated. We feel peaceful and more relaxed in the company of nature; birdsong, trees rustling and insects busying away reminds us that we’re part of a much larger world – and that we’re priviledged to share it with nature.
Everyone should get outdoors at least once a day, even if you can only spare 15 minutes, as you will soon feel the benefit. Whether you visit a local park or are lucky enough to be on nature’s doorstep, or simply want to enjoy time in the garden more mindfully, there are techniques to make the most of the great outdoors whilst also boosting your happiness.
Friday 19 to Sunday 21 June is Midsommar (Mid-Summer), a huge celebration and cherished tradition in Sweden. They spend lots of time outdoors, make flower wreaths, participate in may pole dancing and enjoy time in nature.
Meditation & mindfulness
Meditation is a popular lifestyle trend, with many famous and high profile figures lauding the practice as a key component of their daily routine. Paying more attention to the present moment and to thoughts and feelings helps to improve mental wellbeing and enables people to enjoy life and understand themselves better.
Meditating amongst nature – away from the stresses of your day-to-day – can be an altogether more wholesome and more effective approach to disconnecting. Try sitting quietly in a secluded spot in the park or woods, taking time to listen to your surroundings, and just be with your thoughts.
There are a number of apps you can use for meditation, try Headspace if you want to learn the essentials of meditation, or Calm for guided Daily Calm sessions, which help you unwind and refocus your attention, while providing soothing sounds of nature including waves crashing, birdsong or rainfall. Once you’re comfortable with the practice, however, the best way to meditate or enjoy mindfulness is far away from any tech.
Yoga is a popular exercise form, focusing on breathing techniques, stretching, flexibility and mindfulness. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, fight depression, and even reduce migraines. Yoga can be enjoyed outdoors too – why not try an early morning yoga session in your garden, or head to your local park with your yoga mat? Be sure to warm up first and stretch well afterwards.
Breathing techniques are a key component of yoga. Try the Breethe app to help you relax and focus on your breathing. Breethe guides you through a series of deep breaths and reminds you to take time to breathe every day. Choose how long you want to breathe, then let the animation and gentle taps help you focus.
Powerwalking is very popular in Sweden and a great way to increase your heartrate and get your step count up. Brisk walking everyday can help you build stamina, burn calories and make your heart healthier. Increase your walking speed up to 3mph for 10 minutes, then walk at a normal, strolling pace for five minutes, alternating between the two. A 30 minute fast walk will burn between 100 and 175 calories and can be as effective as swimming for the same duration.
Forest bathing originated in Japan, however the evidence behind the benefits of forest bathing continues to grow and is very popular in Scandinavia. Time spent under the canopy of trees provides an opportunity to slow down, connect with nature and escape the pressures of everyday life. Use all five senses to connect to your surroundings and be feel present in the moment. Doing so will relieve stress and anxiety, can help aid sleep and also boost the immune system.
Celebrate Midsummer Swedish-style
A weekend of singing, dancing and eating – what’s not to love? Get inspired by Sweden’s most treasured yearly celebration, Midsommar, and recreate this in your local park or garden. Try your hand at making your own flower wreaths and enjoy an al fresco (socially distanced) lunch or picnic. Be sure to try Swedish delicacies too: open sandwiches on rye bread, elderflower cordial, new potatoes with chive and sour cream dip, pickled herring and schnapps. You’ll soon feel in the Midsummer spirit.
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At home tips
Bring nature into your home as well as enjoying time outdoors. Grow seeds on windowsills and add plants and greenery to every room. Plant care is a form of self-care, as we nurture and tend to plants, so we care for ourselves. Try adding natural elements into the home by decorating with natural materials such as wood, seashells, tree bark, flowers and feathers. You could create a seating area close to nature, with a view of the trees or sky, and eat meals in the garden, on the balcony or by an open window to feel closer to the outdoors.