With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) now recognized as a very real condition, it’s becoming easier to find ways to combat the melancholy state of mind that plagues seasonal sufferers. Whether it’s the dark nights, the change in the weather or any other external factors causing a decline in your mood, there are ways to lift your spirits.
In today’s article, we’re taking a look at various mental health benefits that come with outdoor exercise and giving you the inspiration you need to incorporate small but life-altering changes into your daily routine.
1. They encourage us to socialize
If you suffer from anxiety and find socializing with other people challenging, getting involved in group activities can offer one way to combat your fears. There are a number of websites designed to help anxiety sufferers, where people can receive help and advice and meet up with people experiencing similar feelings.
When you feel ready, get together with friends and organize short walks through the park or even take your dogs to the beach – it doesn’t need to be an intense workout to help you reap the rewards.
Find out more at anxietyuk.org.uk
2. They get us out of the house
There’s no denying that winter brings with it a number of exciting things. From festive markets to the big day itself, it really can be the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s also cold and dark, and it can be tempting to stay wrapped up indoors where it’s warm. This sort of behavior can often lead to agitation and restlessness, as neither your mind nor your body are getting the stimulation they need to stay active.
Resist the temptation to tuck your bike away for the winter or take the car to work everyday, and try and spend at least 30 minutes more outside each day. Your mind and body will thank you for it!
3. They help us get fit
The festive season technically doesn’t start until December, so fight the urge to tuck into the mince pies as soon as they hit the shelves. If you’re not a fan of the gym, find out whether there are any outdoor running clubs or bootcamps close to where you live. You can set yourself small, manageable goals to achieve over the weeks leading up to Christmas, and your first mince pie will taste all the more sweet!
4. They help us sleep better
There’s nothing like a good dose of cold, crisp winter air to help you sleep at night – and if you can fit your workout in during daylight hours, even better! Studies have shown that a lack of sunlight can lead to a decline in serotonin levels. This, in turn, can disrupt our sleep – as well as causing a lack of appetite and irregular moods. You might often find yourself feeling more tired when you haven’t done much exercise but, by bedtime, you struggle to sleep.
Exercise shouldn’t be ignored during the winter months. It can have a domino effect on your mental health – leading to a lack of sleep, an increasingly irritable mood and even underperformance at work. So, where possible, find time to get in at least 20 minutes of open-air exercise a day.
5. They reduce stress levels
With a total of 488,000 work-related stress, anxiety or depression cases in 2015-2016 and 11.7 million working days lost as a result, it’s clear that Brits’ careers are having a dramatic impact on their mental health. If you’re having a particularly stressful day at work, try to avoid working beyond your contracted hours – and rather than going straight home and staying in the house all evening, commit to going for a quick run or walk outside. Even beyond daylight hours, this will help you to relax and will invariably lead to a more peaceful night’s sleep.
From intense bootcamps to a stroll along the beach, any outdoor activity can help to create a happy, healthy mindset – so what are you waiting for? Say goodbye to the sofa and head off to the park!