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Mental Health Awareness WeekImage: Mental Health Foundation

Get back to Nature during Mental Health Awareness Week

Nature the ‘great untapped resource’ for a mentally healthy future for runners and non-runners alike

Today (Monday 10 May) marks the start of Mental Health Awareness week across the UK. 

The theme for the week, which comes as the country continues its gradual move out of lockdown, is Nature.

As Mark Rowland, the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, the charity behind the awareness campaign, explains, ‘Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world.’

Runners have long known that getting outside is an effective way of way of combatting stress – something non-runners have been discovering over the last year. 

Research from the MHF undertaken during the pandemic showed that going for walks was one of the public’s top coping strategies: more than half the people they surveyed said that being in ‘green spaces’ had been vital for their mental health. 

But why should a run or walk in the woods be so effective? According to the MHF, because of our historic connection as humans to the natural world, nature has a ‘unique ability to not only bring consolation in times of stress, but also increase our creativity, empathy and a sense of wonder’. Even spending a short time outside ‘can reduce feelings of social isolation and be effective in protecting our mental health and preventing distress’.

When you’re planning your running routes for the next seven days, the MHF suggests leaving the headphones behind so that you can better connect with the sounds of nature. They also suggest heading to locations that bring you closer to green spaces and water. 

And if you think you’ll be too busy to head outside for a run this week, the MHF reminds us that in addition to being good for our physical health, running outdoors can help to reduce feelings of anger, tiredness and sadness – something we should all make time for after a stressful year of lockdown. 

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