10 ways to get outdoors and be happy

Studies have shown that access to nature can reduce depression, and that people who live near trees and green spaces have increased self-esteem and mental wellbeing. So, we pulled together a list of 10 ways you can get active, get outdoors and be happy this winter!

1. Explore urban nature 

If you live in a big town or city, it’s easy to feel disconnected from nature (so many buildings, so little green!). But there are so many hidden green spots in cities across the UK from Epping Forest in London, to Chorlton Ees Nature Reserve in Manchester. Whichever city you’re in, nature is just a short bus, train or bike journey away!

2. Jump on a bike

Cycling isn’t just good for your physical health: it also benefits your mental wellbeing. Riding a bike can be relaxing and can help you unwind after a stressful day at work – especially if you’re not cycling on roads! Take your bike, borrow a friend’s bike, or grab a Boris Bike, and head to your local park to enjoy nature and de-stress!

3. Make a splash 

Take a plunge in an outdoor pool, lido, lake, pond or river and enjoy the health benefits of swimming, and the beauty of nature. (Just imagine staring up at the clouds and trees as you backstroke…heaven!) From Hampstead Ponds, to The Serpentine, there are loads of outdoor swimming options within London. Not in London? Check out the interactive map pulled together by the Wild Swimming community.

4. Escape the city 

Once you’ve explored all of the hidden green spots nearby, why not venture out of the city? There are loads of National Trust parks and spaces just a stone’s throw away from the big smoke – such as Box Hill in Surrey (just an hour on the train from Victoria). Put your postcode in to the National Trust’s website to find your nearest park.

5. Join a running club (or start your own!)

Running is a bit like Marmite – some of us love it, and some of us hate it! Running clubs are a great way to make running more fun, and get the support and motivation from other people. In a survey by England Athletics, 90% of runners said their happiness increased as a result of running in a group – citing new friendships and motivation as the key reasons. You can find existing clubs here.

6. Grow your own 

Lots of studies have linked gardening and mental health. A 2015 poll found that 88% of people find that mental wellbeing is a key benefit for spending time in the garden. In many cities having a garden big enough to grow fruit or vegetables in (or indeed a garden at all!) is a luxury but there are ways around it – allotments, window boxes or indoor growing kits and cultivators!

7. Give nature a helping hand 

Volunteering to support nature conservation is a great way to get outdoors, connect with nature and feel great for doing it! From one-off volunteering sessions at your local wildlife reserve, to more regular volunteering, there are plenty of ways to help your local nature. Natural EnglandWildlife Trusts and The National Trust are just a handful of the organisations who look for volunteers. Or you could look to support wildlife in your local community, park, forest or common, like volunteers do every Sunday at Streatham Common.

8. Walk around the capital

The Capital Ring Walk is a circular walk around London, and offers you the chance to see some of the capital’s finest scenery. The 78 mile walk is divided into 15 easy-to-walk sections – and once you’ve completed the whole walk you can even download your very own certificate to celebrate your achievement (who doesn’t love a certificate and a pat on the back!). Maps, guides and more information is all available for free on the TfL website.

9. Get fit and do good

Why burn energy in the gym when you could harness that effort to spruce up public spaces, or visit lonely pensioners? That’s the idea behind GoodGym – a community of runners that combines getting fit with doing good. Good for your health, and good for your heart!

10. Go geocaching

Geocaching is basically a digital treasure hunt and a great way to get outdoors and have some fun. Simply download the app on to your phone, and get hunting! Geocaches are all over the UK (and indeed the world!) – in and around towns and cities, deep in forests, up in mountains – there are thousands to find.

I wrote this blog for Global Action Plan. The original post can be found here.

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