The leading mental health charity Mind is calling for people to get outside to guard against winter blues and to improve mental health.
Many of us feel a dip in mood and our enthusiasm wane in the winter months – research shows this is largely due to a reduction in sunlight.
Our internal patterns of sleep and appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity rely on natural light cycles so, as the UK sees hours of daylight diminish form 17 in mid June to just eight in December, we can all be affected. Many people feel low, eat and sleep more, and feel less inclined to get out and socialise with friends or go to work.
Outdoor exercise, or ecotherapy, increases exposure to sunlight and can positively impact our mood – in fact research shows outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
Rachel de Thame, celebrity gardener and Gardeners’ World presenter, is supporting Mind’s campaign to raise awareness of the positive impact of outdoor exercise.
“The garden is a sanctuary for me,” Rachel said. ” It provides fresh air, a place to get away from the pressures of everyday life, and an opportunity to take a step back and appreciate the world around us. Whether in your back garden, local park, or even helping out at a local school or community centre, outdoor spaces are available to us all.
“At this time of year it is vital that we all take advantage of the therapeutic effects of the great outdoors and look after our own mental well being.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said: “By simply getting outdoors we can all help ourselves in strengthening our mental resilience. Exercise will increase physical fitness, improving self confidence. Many of us also tend to eat more in winter, especially comfort foods – which can cause weight gain, leading to reduced self esteem and loss of energy. Increasing exercise levels will help to maintain a healthy lifestyle and in turn increase mental wellbeing. Activities with friends or an organised group such as one of Minds’ Ecominds projects can also help to lift our mood as support networks can be important when we’re feeling low.Whether going for a lengthy bike ride, a quick jog round the local park or just time pottering the garden, I encourage everyone to step outside and find something they enjoy this winter.”