Walk through the countryside for good mental health – Guest blog post by Rebekah Horton

Photo of Rebekah Horton, author of this guest blog post.

Let’s take a moment to gather our thoughts.

Everyday life can be overwhelming, with so much to do in so little time. Your brain is trying to organise everything, but when a small trigger comes along, that’s the moment that can dissolve from a good day into a bad day. Personally, I am grateful to be able to enjoy nature, take a break for 5 minutes and leave the house for a walk and fresh air. Especially after feeling cooped up at home because of the lockdowns, I notice the beauty of nature blossoming around us.

What are my favourite moments with nature?

While I was looking out through the window during lockdown, I watched a stunning bird that I think was a Blue Jay. The opportunity of watching it explore my garden was one of the highlights of 2020.

Another highlight was during my walk on a gorgeous summer’s day while I sat on a bench for a few minutes enjoying the sea view. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a beautiful Robin just standing on the armrest and it was not fazed by my presence. I sensed that the Robin was also happy and content.

I also remember enjoying a peaceful moment watching the sea waves in Torquay. Since graduating from university, I’ve promised myself to take a break during a busy day. It’s only to avoid feeling burnt out and overwhelmed mentally. We all get moments when we feel that the situation feels unsolvable and scary. However, I do find that nature is a form of escapism and allows you to stop and appreciate what is around you. Nature helps to refresh your mind and to regain control of the situation. Listening to the sea waves feels soothing to me. The way they crash against the rocks and it feels like there’s a rhythm when the waves move towards the beach and back to the sea. The rhythm reminds me of our hearts beating, knowing we need to look after our physical health, as well as our mental health.

Why are you feeling SAD?

I always find it interesting how our mood changes depending on the weather. For example, I feel more motivated when it’s a sunny day and more relaxed when it’s pouring it down with rain.

I’ve discovered there’s a disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD for short. People with this disorder often feel low and lethargic during the winter months and for some people, this can become severe and they may need to see their GP.
Even though there isn’t a definite cause, there is a theory mentioned on the NHS website that the lack of sunlight may be linked. The lack of sunlight may cause us to feel more sleepy, depressed and also change our appetite, as well as affecting our internal clock, this is also known as the circadian rhythm. It also mentions that going outdoors and getting Vitamin D from the sunlight may be a treatment for SAD. Other treatments include exercising and also cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling.

Spending time with your loved ones can also help to get those concerns and fears out of your mind. I find that being in a different setting helps a lot because being stuck indoors 24/7 can increase loneliness, depression, and boredom.

Being out and about to enjoy nature can also improve our physical health, as well as our mental health. This is because we can focus on our breathing while we’re walking and our endorphins are released. Any form of exercise can help to increase our confidence and positivity. A simple walk can also help us to gain better sleep and reduce our stress levels.

Why is nature important for our mental health?

I believe nature is essential for our mental health because we’ll be able to build a strong bond with nature and our minds will become clearer to find solutions to overwhelming problems. Personally, there have been so many moments when all I need is a long walk with a family member or a friend to calm my mind down, listen from another perspective and be able to look at the situation more clearly.

Nature can help us in remembering our memories and other moments when we felt happy and content. For example, during my childhood, I used to go to Killerton for daily walks with my family. I have fond memories of Killerton because it was peaceful and we were able to enjoy watching our dogs playing together. This links in with our senses, for example, I remember playing on the big oak tree and inhaling the fresh air while the leaves fall and rest gracefully onto the rough dirt. These moments can bring us comfort and a sense of safety, I feel that Killerton was able to help me to reconnect not just with nature but also with myself and my family.

While linking nature with mental health, I feel that it shows the symbolic theme of life and death. I find this fascinating because not only does it make me feel at ease with my mental health, but also I can see the creativity and guidance through life. For mental health, we can take small steps in planning out our futures and start to feel happier with our choices in life.

We all understand that the ‘big wide world’ is scary and that’s why we need to remember that there are many communities we can join and support. I’ve noticed that nature has brought many communities together, as well as raising awareness of loneliness and isolation during the pandemic. There are walking groups that are meeting in ideal locations such as Haldon Forest. They’re important for our mental health because walking groups can provide us with a safe place to express our feelings, form good long-term friendships and share a common interest in enjoying nature and being outdoors.

Our appreciation for nature has blossomed, especially since the pandemic, and I have learned to enjoy those precious moments with nature, whether that’s listening to the sound of birds or watching the sea waves. Not only is it beneficial for my mental health, but also for my physical health, being able to feel content and form a stronger connection with nature.

Rebekah Horton is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Semantic Pragmatic Language Disorder and she set up her own business, RH Creations, last year.

RH Creations is a creative business that provides marketing content for small and micro charities. Rebekah’s passion is to combine mental health with creative arts to support people expressing their voices and stories. Rebekah believes that it is essential for our mental health and wellbeing to express ourselves freely and without judgement.

Knowing the fear of not standing out from the crowd, Rebekah believes that being creative can help present the honesty and raw truth for your authentic voice and intimate connection with your audience.

You can see Rebekah’s work here at www.rebekahhorton.com

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