Mental health around the world is at an all-time high. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that an estimated 12 billion workdays are lost every year due to anxiety and depression and have called for “concrete action to address mental health concerns”.
The rise in mental health concerns surfaced during the pandemic. The number of reported cases of anxiety and depression in particular increased by 25% in the first year of the pandemic. Suicide rates also increased by 4% among males and 2% among females.
Experts suspect the sharp rise in mental health during the pandemic may have stemmed from being socially isolated. It’s well-known that social isolation can have a dramatic shift in a person’s psychology in a short space of time.
A study performed in the early stages of the draconian lockdowns showed that common psychological disorders were rife. It’s unlikely that the lockdowns caused mental health, but they certainly brought persistent periods of isolation, stress and anxiety to the surface.
Social interaction is central to positive mental health. When we spend time in the company of like-minded individuals – particularly if you passionately share the same interests.
As we enter a recession, mental health experts are concerned the pressure piling on families and individuals will escalate the mental health crisis. Walking with friends in nature is a cost-effective way of exposing yourself to the healing qualities of Mother Nature and spending time bonding with people you are close to.
The Healing Qualities of Nature
Over the last two decades, a growing body of evidence has surfaced showing the healing qualities of nature. Researchers found that people that spend time in nature have lower levels of stress, are generally more optimistic, have better moods and have a superior cognitive function.
But cultures in the Far East have known about this for years. Shinrin-yoku is popular in Japan – a pastime known as ‘forest bathing’. The Japanese have been enjoying Shinrin yoku for thousands of years because they recognise the health benefits of simply being amongst the trees in a calm environment that helps to quieten the mind.
In the West, studies have shown similar results after walking in your local green space. The research team concluded that natural environments may provide the best all-around health benefits by increasing physical activity levels, reducing stress, restoring mental fatigue, improving mood and stimulating self-esteem.
Spending time in a soothing environment helps brain activity to slow down. It can be a useful exercise for anybody dealing with anxiety and depression. Nature walks are certainly good for alleviating stress. Nature walks have also been shown to lower blood pressure and foster a stable heart rate.
Mental health experts are also calling parents to encourage their kids to get out into nature. Whilst a teenager may resist a family walk in the woods, heading to the hills with their friends is a good habit to get into. You could suggest they go abseiling, kayaking, mountain biking or zip-lining.
If you have younger children that bore easily, why not invent games you can play whilst you are out and about. We’ve previously created a list of things you can do to entertain kids on a nature walk. Take a look for inspiration.
Download the Sweatcoin App
Sweatcoin is on a mission to help individuals improve their mental and physical health by encouraging people to walk. We intend to use technology for good so we’ve created an app with a built-in pedometer which counts the number of steps you take every day and converts them into a digital currency called SWC.
For every 1000 steps you take, you earn 1SWC which can be used to purchase merchandise from over 300 online merchants. So if you want to earn a little extra cash, spend more time with friends, explore nature and improve your health and well-being all in one fell swoop, download the Sweatcoin app and organise a walk about in nature with your friends.