7 Ways Nature Can Boost Mental Health Whilst Abroad
Despite going abroad being associated with excitement and adventure, it can also be a source of stress and anxiety for most of us. Being away from home combined with a disrupted routine, unfamiliar surroundings and culture shock, can feel quite overwhelming.
Good news is: nature is here to help! In fact, there are countless ways in which nature can boost our wellbeing whilst abroad. Here are a few outdoor activities which can benefit mental and physical health.
1. Wild swimming
This is the practice of swimming in open water spaces such as lakes, rivers or seas. Wild swimmers release endorphins which contributes to reduced stress. It has also proved to boost feelings of happiness whilst increasing overall energy levels.
Wherever you are in the world, there will always be some kind of natural water body not far, where you can go for a wild swim. Including this in your routine will allow you to take a mindful break, get some exercise and also explore the country you’re in!
2. Sunrise walks
This is quite self-explanatory and basically involves waking up at the same time as the sun rises and going on a morning stroll. Doing this is believed to be mood boosting as it sets a positive tone for the whole day and gives you momentum. Waking up early to watch the sunrise increases feelings of achievement and can work as a meditation in itself.
The easiest way to include a sunrise walk into your routine whilst abroad would be to have it scheduled for every Sunday. You can even bring company with you – that way, you can explore your new surroundings together in the calm of the morning.
3. Tree hugging
Tree hugging involves, well…hugging trees. You may remember doing it as a child and there is a reason why humans feel drawn to trees. Trees not only provide shelter for many living beings, they also increase the feelings of bonding and happiness of the person hugging them. Trees, just like everything, are made up of energy and when we hug them, they provide us with some of that earth energy.
When in a different country, it is often difficult to know where large forested spaces are, especially if you’re in a city. However, most cities will have a natural reserve not too far. So, get yourself to a green space, find a tree, and hug it for however long you need.
4. Bird watching
Bird watching or birding doesn’t necessarily involve binoculars and advanced equipment. In fact, bird watching starts the second you look up and search for birdies. Observing birds and focusing on this one task will allow for your mind to calm down and connect with local wildlife. It acts as a form of meditation and is linked to feeling an increased sense of ease and tranquility.
The good thing is that you can do it just about anywhere, even in cities, because yes, pigeons do count! Depending on which country you’re in, you may have a wider variety of bird species to observe. In fact, Latin America has some of the world’s best birding destinations with Colombia at the top of the list with 1826 bird species!
5. Forest bathing
This practice known as Shinrin-Yoku originates from Japan and designates the meditative act of mindfully strolling through a forest. It helps reduce stress and increases feelings of wellbeing. It is an effective way to take a break from the chaos of life.
However, finding a forest can be tricky, especially when you’re new to the place. Fortunately, many cities have botanical gardens where you can take your weekly ‘botanical bath’. Although, if you’re travelling around a rural region, make the most out of the wild forested areas!
Someone ‘grounds’ themselves by simply getting barefoot and feeling the earth beneath their feet. Grounding, also known as earthing, is known to have great benefits such as helping with jet lag or improving sleep. It has also been suggested that grounding increases libido!
Grounding is quite easy to include into your routine, even abroad, as all you need to do is walk barefoot on grass/sand/earth for 10 minutes each day. Overall, grounding helps make you feel more connected to the earth and to yourself.
7. Flower smelling
Smelling flowers is not only enjoyable but it also helps reduce stress and as a result brings balance and peace. It’s like free aromatherapy! All you have to do is find wild flowers, smell them and learn about their benefits. Doing so on a regular basis will allow you to develop your senses and tune in with the magical beauty of nature.
Flowers are sadly a rare sight in urban areas, but you can plant them or keep an indoor plant. Some of the most stunning gardens to visit include Florence’s horticultural garden and Paris’ garden of plants. Madrid’s rose garden (La Rosaleda del Retiro) and royal botanical garden (Real Jardin Botanico) are also wonderful places for flower smelling.