The First Woman to swim from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly: who better to share their natural prescription for happiness in these challenging times than ocean swimmer and inspirational speaker, Beth French?
So, I guess the first thing to state is that access to nature and space is a luxury.
Lockdown has thrown some aspects of modern life into stark relief and I am blessed to live in a rural area with a big garden. In normal times, the inconvenience of distance from shops or culture or friends might be reason for this situation to feel limited. But throw in a global pandemic, and suddenly the same situation means immediate access to fresh air, socially-distanced exercise and a deep sense of community with those I am isolated with in our little village. So I have felt very grateful to luck and life choices that has led me to live as I do.
But in these uncertain times, it is vital to recognise that we have all been dealing with trauma.
Covid-19; an unseen threat, routine life being torn apart, hyper-vigilance required and everywhere we look in the media there is fear. Human bodies and minds are not designed to cope with long term stress and it can have deeply negative effects.
And yet the cure to this trauma response is just outside our front door – even if we are in the middle of a city.
5 reasons why outside is the best lockdown medicine
Being reminded that the world still turns
Being shut in our own 4 walls with no physical contact, confined to social media and TV for weeks; even our own echo chambers feel constricting. Getting outside and going for a walk, seeing the change in seasons, a weed springing up through concrete, hearing a bird singing, watching grass grow – all of this life grounds us and reminds us that there is a bigger picture. Nature is resilient. So are you.
Movement Brings Balance
Lockdown has meant most of us are in our heads more. And whilst that is a good thing for a short while, 5 months of it is not the healthiest hangout space. Movement increases body awareness. Changes in temperature, feeling the wind, proprioception and vestibular challenges – the body’s internal awareness of where is is in time and space – all nudge us back into balance within ourselves.
Slowing the Stress Response
Putting the phone on silent and looking up at the sky (if there isn’t an unbroken horizon to gaze at) causes our minds to slow down. It begins the healing process of trusting the outside as a safe place. Breathe long and slow – this also encourages the inner tempo to slow down gradually.
Endorphins are the Answer…
…sorry, what was the question? The body’s own self help chemicals ready to be made: run up and down steps…. skip along a path…briskly skirt the park… any sort of movement lowers blood pressure, increases heart rate and lung capacity and generates some free-of-charge feel good.
NHS AKA: Natural Health Service
There is a reason doctors are increasingly prescribing nature as medicine. From anxiety and depression to sleep problems, forest bathing to wild swimming to socially distanced boot camps; getting out and moving our bodies stretches our comfort zone in all the right places and produces the alchemy of well being. If you can get to wilderness, do. Safely. As John Muir, father of the National Park movement in the 19th century said: “everybody needs beauty as well as bread, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”