September is associated with returning to our usual routine – the end of summer holidays, and the time to get back to school, work, or college. But with the average UK temperature being relatively mild for a little while longer at least, the return to routine doesn’t have to mean a lack of adventure. With plenty of time to make the most of the longer daylight hours, why not head into the great outdoors to connect with nature? Whether it’s swimming in a fresh-water lake or enjoying the warmth of a campfire, nothing can make you feel closer to the four elements than time spent in the great British countryside.
Chartered Psychologist and Yonder Wellbeing Expert, Suzy Reading, believes that by getting closer to the elements, we can improve wellbeing and experience a positive impact on our overall health.
Suzy says: “We’re blessed to have such a variety of green, wild or nature-rich spaces across the UK and you don’t need to travel far to find a beautiful natural setting to suit your needs. Time in the great outdoors is a crucial element of those looking to take a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and it doesn’t have to be a full-on itinerary or programme – even a 15-minute stroll in a woodland or along the coast can do wonders to restore our equilibrium and instil a sense of calm.
“This autumn, we want to encourage more people to shut off the tech and embrace nature’s elements with fun and invigorating outdoor activities. Get kids involved too and create family traditions and a whole heap of happy memories.”
Read on for Suzy’s full tips on how to make the most of the great outdoors and embrace the four elements this September…
Fire – Enjoy the warmth of a campfire
There’s something primal about a campfire, and nothing more relaxing. Used by humans for millennia, fires offer the perfect excuse to bring everybody together. Providing the perfect excuse to switch off from the rest of the world, we are all drawn to the meditative glow, scent, and crackle of warming flames. Whether you’re camping or simply enjoying the evening sights and sounds of the back garden, gathering friends and family to enjoy food, drink, conversation, or music round a fire is a great way to catch up and connect. Switch off devices to really focus on the here and now.
Pic: ShutterstockYou’ll find the water is at its best year-round temperature following the summer, so now is the ideal time to enjoy some wild swimming. Rivers, seas, or lakes; there’s nothing more invigorating than a cold-water dip. Regular cold-water therapy has a whole host of health benefits. From reducing stress, or easing muscle aches, to improving circulation, boosting the immune system, and enhancing sleep quality, wild swimming is great for both body and mind.
Scouring the British countryside for an outdoor swimming spot is the perfect way to explore more of the natural world around us. Try the Wild Swim app to discover swim spots near you and meet other wild swimmers embracing the chilly temperatures and all the benefits that it brings.
Earth – Nurture and grow
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to embrace nature and the natural world around us; taking some time in your garden is a fantastic way to find some tranquillity and peace amongst the hustle and bustle of modern life. Whether you’ve got acres of land to maintain, a balcony, patio, or just some windowsill plants to water, watching your efforts grow from nothing but soil into something beautiful can offer a real sense of achievement whilst also boosting confidence and self-esteem. Caring for plants and greenery is self-care; as plants grow, so do we.
Did you know that getting our hands in the soil also improves our gut health? When we spend time in nature, where there is better diversity of insects that are beneficial to us, it helps boost our microbial diversity. The more contact we have with green space, breathing it in, getting our hands in the soil, the more we allow these good microbes to infiltrate and nourish our immune system. Getting your hands dirty with a spot of gardening can help make you feel more in tune with the natural world around us, and in turn, more appreciative of all nature has to offer.
Air – Breathe it in
Getting out into the fresh air has a myriad of health benefits, from improved sleep, increased energy levels and better digestion, with some studies even suggesting it can help bolster your immune system. Simply bringing your yoga mat outdoors or practising some mindfulness in nature can allow you to make the most of all those benefits and get some good, clean air into your lungs. By focusing on your breathing as you do it, the noise in your brain will quiet and your stress levels reduce, allowing you to feel present and more in touch with your body and mind.
Try a breathing technique called ‘belly breathing’ to get you started. Find a quiet, comfortable spot outdoors and take a seat, placing your hands on your abdomen. Elongate your spine, allow your stomach to relax and breathe in and out slowly through your nose, unless you are congested. As you breathe in, direct the breath into your tummy like you are filling a balloon, feeling your stomach expand and your hands going along for the ride. As you exhale, feel the balloon effortlessly deflate and your hands move back towards your spine. Repeat for six calm breaths or a few minutes if it feels good to you.
Doing this as you listen to the sounds of nature around you is the ultimate calming activity, giving you the chance to really stop and catch your breath.