This week is Mental Health Awareness Week! The Mental Health Foundation run this awareness campaign every year, and this year the focus is nature. They chose this theme as evidence shows that being in nature has powerful beneftis for our mental wellbeing. Reflecting on this, we wanted to draw attention to some different ways that you can get out into nature, to support your mental health. We'll be posting tips here every day this week, so keep an eye out for them, and get involved with the campaign online by using the hashtags #ConnectWithNature and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek in any posts about your time in nature.
Walking and Wheeling
Physical activity and time in nature have proven benefits for your mental and physical health. And that doesn't have to mean strenuous activity - a simple and slow walk or wheel to a nice scenic area is enough in itself to life your mood. We aren't short on green spaces in Edinburgh, so why not go and explore a local park or path this Mental Health Awareness Week?
If you're wheeling, did you know that you can request a beach wheelchair to take along Portobello beach? All info can be found here: https://www.beachwheelchairs.org/portobello. And if you want to explore the beautiful nature in the Botanic Gardens, you can call ahead to request a wheelchair or mobility scooters to be made available at the gate for your arrival time!
There are some amazing Quiet Routes for walking and cycling in Edinburgh that can take you away from busy roads, so you can enjoy some exercise and nature on your commute to College, work, or in your leisure time. This can often end up saving you time on your journey too, as you can avoid busy times for traffic! Why not cycle down the Roseburn path for a visit to Cramond Beach, or along the Innocent Railway to get some beautiful views of Arthur Seat and Duddingston Loch?
If you've got a specific destination in mind but want to find a new route, a great way to do that is on Cycle Streets - simply put in your start and end postcodes and the rough speed you'd be cycling at, and then you can choose from the fastest route, balanced route, or quietest route for that journey.
And if you're wanting to cycle more but are worried about safety, get in touch with us at email@example.com to receive free bike lights, bike bells and high-vis items! We have more info on that and more things walking and cycling on our Active Travel Hub!
Gardening is proven to be significantly beneficial to your psychological health, as well as your mental and physical wellbeing. Working productively in the garden can help increase serotonin levels in the brain, improving your overall mood and cause you to be happier throughout the day. Is there anything more satisfying than watching the first tiny leaves appear on a little plant? ?
Even if you have little space, you can still benefit from growing a city garden. A windowsill, balcony or patio that receives six or more hours of sun is all you need, in addition to a few containers. To help you get started, we'll even be giving seeds away outside Sighthill main entrance from 11:45-13:15 on Tuesday, and outside Granton main entrance from 11:45-13:15 on Thursday!
OR get involved in a community garden near you, where you can get all the benefits of a garden AND an added social element. We have community gardens at our Milton Road and Sighthill experiences that you can get invovled with (email Severine.Monvoisin@edinburghcollege.ac.uk if you'd like to get involved with these), or check out Edinburgh City Council's Interactive map highlighting food growing opportunities across the city: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/council-planning-framework/food-growing-strategy?documentId=13128&categoryId=20204
Looking for a fun new activity that gets you moving and out in nature? Why not try some wild swimming! Did you know that having a dunk in cold water can help to boost your immune system, improve your circulation, and help to relieve stress? It will be cold (it is Scotland afterall!). But if you want to have a go (without buying a wetsuit), head to a beach such as Portabello, bring a friend with you, and have a quick run into the sea and back. For first time outdoor swimmers it's best to keep the swim short as it is very chilly! But even a 2 minute dip can give you a nice endorphin boost! Bring warm clothes to change into and a flask of hot tea/coffee, plus a wee snack for after, then get home ASAP for a warm shower. If you find you enjoyed your first dip and want to do more, we'd recommend using a wetsuit, wetsuit shoes and gloves (shoes are really useful if walking on rocky bits to get to the water) and you can also put a bring swim cap on the keep some heat in and so boats/paddleboarders can see you in the water. And most importantly, always go with someone - whether it's a friend who's been before,or find a local gruop who can help show you the ropes. Some great sites for wild swimming in the city are Portabello Beach, Wardie Bay and Threipmuir reservoir.
Useful links for more info and groups are:
OSS SWIM RESPONSIBILITY STATEMENT – Outdoor Swimming Society Outdoor Swimming Society
Wild Swimming - Edinburgh and Lothians | Facebook
Edinburgh is an amazing city to be in when it comes to hill walks! We're built around seven hills - Arthur Seat, Blackford, Braids, Calton, Castle, Corstorphine and Craiglockhart. You could space these out across seven different days to get yourself out into nature, or even challenge yourself to climbing all seven in one day if you felt up to it!
There are also a lot of accessible Munro's within a relatively short travel from Edinburgh, which could be a great option for you now government restrictions are easing and we're allowed to travel outwith our local authority areas again. Here's a great resource for researching Munro's you'd like to climb, including useful directions and elevation maps: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/