Five reasons why the South Downs could help boost your mental health

Amanda Elmes - learning, outdoor and volunteer lead at the South Downs National Park Authority SUS-190515-113934001
Amanda Elmes - learning, outdoor and volunteer lead at the South Downs National Park Authority SUS-190515-113934001

The South Downs National Park Authority (SDPNA) is encouraging people to get out and enjoy nature as part of Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13-19).

Spending just one hour a week outdoors and enjoying the landscape can make a positive difference to reducing stress, according to the SDNPA.

Spending time outdoors can reduce stress according to the South Downs National Park Authority SUS-190515-113945001

Spending time outdoors can reduce stress according to the South Downs National Park Authority SUS-190515-113945001

Learning, outdoor and volunteer lead for the SDNPA, Amanda Elmes, said: “The National Park was designated for the nation for a very good reason – it’s such a special place with breathtaking landscape and wildlife.

“Whether it’s walking a section of the South Downs Way and soaking up the wide open views, or a family cycle ride in the woods, getting outdoors is proven to reduce stress and generally promote a feeling of happiness.

“Many people think that a visit to the National Park needs to be a day-out or involve vigorous exercise, but it could simply be an hour-long gentle walk at one of our many beauty spots.

“With 117,000 people living in the National Park and more than two million people living within 10km, I would urge people to make the most of this incredible natural remedy.”

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Here are Amanda’s five reasons why the South Downs is good for boosting mental health:

1. Going for a walk releases feel-good chemicals

A walk in the countryside builds up cardiovascular fitness and releases the feel-good chemical in the brain, serotonin. If walking with your dog, be sure to keep it on a lead.

2. Forest bathing reduces stress

The National Park is a treasure trove of woodland, such as Alice Holt, Stansted and Friston. Forest bathing simply means immersing yourself in a forest setting. Originating in Japan and now a cornerstone of Japanese healthcare, it is a natural way to calm the senses and promote a feeling of peace in a busy world.

3. Getting closer to nature increases self-esteem

Studies point towards spending time in a greener environment as being good for increasing self-esteem, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and reducing blood pressure.

4. Natural light is essential for healthy brain function

Spending too much time indoors, away from natural light, can have a negative impact on our mental health and studies suggest it can contribute to sleep issues, poor memory and anxiety. Just 20 minutes of exposure to daylight can increase the brain’s levels of serotonin and help control our natural circadian rhythms that dictate sleep-wake cycles.

5. Breathe in the clean fresh air

Studies indicate that reduced atmospheric pollutants can help support and maintain mental health.

For more ideas on getting out and enjoying the National Park, visit https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/enjoy/

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