A place like home: how spending time in nature helps my mental health.

Skimming through my twitter feed the other day, my attention was drawn to this tweet from YoungMinds:

YoungMinds logo
YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.

I’ve long admired the work that YoungMinds do to support mental health care for children and young people, but what really interested me was this paragraph from their blog:

A US study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found that rumination – the repeated mulling over of negative thoughts and painful experiences in one’s mind – can be reduced by walking through natural environment such as a forest or green space. Furthermore, brain scans showed that there was reduced activity in a part of the brain associated with mental health illness in people who had spent 90 minutes walking through a natural environment, compared to people who had spent 90 minutes walking through an urban environment.

Since my diagnosis I’ve come across a whole host of ideas of things that are supposed to help with reducing anxiety and improving mood. Many of them have proved to be useless, in my experience. Spending time with nature, however, is something that I can honestly say has really worked for me.

There is one place in particular that I really enjoy spending time. So much so that for me it honestly feels like something of a second home. That place is the area of the West Pennine Moors around Rivington, Winter Hill and Anglezarke. I’ve been visiting the area for at least 20 years off and on, and there’s nothing better for clearing my head than spending two or three hours just walking around the reserviors or up and down Rivington Pike. Genuinely it’s one of my favourite places in the whole world, and I feel extremely lucky to have such a wonderful amenity as this right on my doorstep.

Rivington Reservoirs
The reservoirs at Rivington, as well as the surrounding land,
are wonderfully maintained by United Utilities. Thanks guys!

Recently I’ve also been spending a lot of time at Haigh Hall Country Park, mostly playing golf but also sometimes just wandering around the estate or along the canal. Haigh has become another place that is something of a second home to me, and again I find spending time there a great way of getting by thoughts in order.

A view of the golf course at Haigh Country Park.
From the tee on the 9 hole Crawford golf course at Haigh Country Park. The course is run by Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust and a wonderful team of golf professionals.

One of the unexpected side effects of my condition is that I’ve spent far, far too much time over the last year moping about at home; eating too much and getting nowhere near enough excercise. So now that the weather is a little better (hopefully I haven’t jinxed it) I’ll be trying to do something about that by spending more time in these lovely parts of out community.

So, if you see me up at Rivington or even bump into me playing a round over at Haigh do come and say hello. Or if you live further afield, it would be really interesting to hear where you go and what you do to gee yourself up when you’re feeling down.

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