Green exercise for the mind.

  • Contributor information: CNP

3 May 2019

Too many of us suffer from poor mental health. Spending time outside in our National Parks can be an important way of regaining some peace and wellbeing in a busy modern world. Andrew Higson of Black Dog Outdoors has more…

Poor mental health is a growing concern in the UK. Statistics from the 2014 APMS (Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey) have highlighted that “every week, one in six adults will experience symptoms of a common mental health problem”. Startlingly, the survey also highlights that “one in five adults has considered taking their own life at some point”. It’s a fair assumption that, based on these facts, many of the people reading this blog will have had their lives affected by mental health issues; either directly, or indirectly through family and friends.

Mental health symptoms are startlingly common. Photo credit: Adam Vaughan Photography

As a society we’re now being better informed about mental health with numerous organisations working hard, locally and nationally, to de-stigmatise and raise awareness of mental health issues. The promotion of better mental health is being taken up by many employers and businesses. There is also a significant body of research and practice setting out ways to improve mental health and emotional wellbeing. The role of sport and recreation in improving mental health is increasingly clear. Many of the mental health organisations are citing “green exercise” as a means of improving mental health and the NHS (National Health Service) are even prescribing it.

The effects of outdoor activities can include stress reduction, improved mood, improved self-esteem and improved health and general well-being. The real challenge now lies in promoting the idea of “green exercise” to those that will benefit from it – the people affected by poor mental health – who may not have the confidence or competence to take those important first steps on their own. I believe that getting out into the National Parks can and already does, benefit the mental wellbeing of everyone and especially those who need it.  

Getting outside in the National Parks can give us valuable peace of mind. Photo credit: Adam Vaughan Photography

We established Black Dog Outdoors to provide organised events aimed specifically towards such people, which are fully supported by MTA qualified leaders and instructors, and also by Mental Health First Aiders.  All the attendees have to do is turn up on the day, make some new friends, and have a great experience.

We held our inaugural event earlier this month in the Peak District National Park (Mam Tor and Great Ridge) and we have further walks planned for later this year in the Lake District (12th May), Snowdonia (20th July), and the Cairngorms (28th September).  We have specifically chosen to host our events in National Parks because of the incredible (and varied) scenery and vistas, the numerous geological and historical talking points, the variety of flora and fauna, and the flexibility of walking routes and terrains which cater for almost all abilities. 

Have you experienced improvements to your mental health from spending time outside? Photo credit: Adam Vaughan Photography

The National Parks give us the peace and tranquillity to ease busy minds.  They give us all the things that we often take for granted in the fast pace of modern society.  Most importantly they give us the opportunity to re-discover and centre ourselves and, even if only for a day or two, they allow us to find some inner peace.  It is precisely this re-connection with nature that we believe improves our mental health and wellbeing… and it costs nothing!!!  So what are you waiting for?

By Andrew Higson

Black Dog Outdoors