While nature is by no means a substitute for meaningful therapy and medical treatment for mental health, it does offer a vital respite; this has perhaps been no more felt than over the last year or so as lockdowns and isolation have particularly turned us to our green spaces and daily walks. The benefits of getting out into the outdoors are rich and plentiful, with those listed below being just a few. The really good news is that Leeds sits on the doorstep to some beautiful natural spaces.
Get Out of the House
I personally find that certain rooms and indoor areas can start to become (subconsciously or not) associated with negative feelings. My bedroom at uni starts to feel a bit rotten and stagnant after a while, especially if I have been spending a lot of time in it and not getting out. Leaving for even a few minutes to go on a short walk or go to the shops can be a great way to disrupt feelings of frustration and general *ugh* that are tied to certain indoor rooms and spaces. Meanwood Valley Farm is a good place to visit that isn’t too far from the student areas.; it is close to a hilly viewpoint, and has alpacas (just to really sell it to you). Alternatively, you could head out to read a book or listen to some music.
Without sounding horribly obnoxious and wishy-washy, the beauty of nature is very inspiring and refreshing. Just getting out and about in a pretty natural space is calming and helps you slow down a bit. There are some lovely beauty spots near Leeds such as Almscliffe Crag, the Cow and Calf Rocks at Ilkley Moor and Kirkstall Abbey – all of which are easily accessible through public transport.
Going on a bit of a mini adventure in nature can be a great way to distract yourself from stressful things (you’ll be too focused on your foot hurting, or something like that) and get endorphins from exercise – hiking, running, cycling or wild swimming are great ways to do this. Leeds is surrounded by plenty of great and affordable places to do this which offer varying difficulties. For instance, hiking around Ilkley Moor is something I particularly enjoy. There are routes ranging from a couple of miles to around 20 depending on what you fancy. All are readily available online. Other places to go to are Arthington Viaduct, which is good for wild swimming, and Roundhay Park, which is ideal for running and cycling.
Green spaces provide the setting for a number of sports and nature-based activities. Whether you want to join a new club or society next year, or just go on a walk with some friends, nature is a great backdrop for meeting new people and socialising.
Natural Light is Good for Sleep
Exposure to natural light is suggested to do wonders for your body clock. Working towards a better sleeping pattern can be a useful way to reduce some symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Try and make sure you are getting a healthy dose of sunlight every day – even if it is just through the window. It is possible to buy sunlight lamps and lamps that help emulate sunlight, especially in winter months, if this is something that particularly bothers you.
Although many of the ways nature subtly lifts our moods are intangible, the above list offers just some succinct ways to think about the positive mental health benefits of nature. Now that uni stress is largely over for the summer, I hope you find some time to get outdoors and unwind a bit!
Header image credit: Andrew Hawkes https://www.andrewhawkes.co.uk/photo/almscliffe-crag-summer-sunset-north-yorkshire