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The positive effects of getting outdoors

After what we’ve been through it’s OK to feel differently, and as we enter a new normal it is more important than ever to look after our physical and mental wellbeing.

This week, an anonymous nature lover who suffers with depression, talks about the positive effects of getting outdoors.

It’s 4am. I’m awake. Wide awake. Not so unusual, when I’m worried about something I often am, mulling, churning, going over stuff that I’d prefer to dismiss. Then, a moment of magic, a bird in the dense swathe of trees behind my house starts to sing. A beautiful, clear, melodic call. There is rhythm, and exact repetition in the call. I stop worrying and start wondering. What does it mean?

I often find that it helps my mood to just watch and listen to birds and animals. They just get on with their lives and they have order and organization in everything they do. I’m not a dyed in the wool twitcher and probably only know the names of half the birds I see, but I do enjoy watching their behaviour.

During the recent lockdown nature and wildlife became even more important to me and, seemingly, more noticeable and prevalent. It was almost as if animals and birds enjoyed the quiet roads and streets, the absence of people. It seemed to put a joyful note in their song and an extra sparkle in their behaviour.

There is so much to see, to enjoy and connect with on the island. I’m often counting my blessings when out cycling round the south of the Island. I think of the countless people cycling through cities and industrial areas, hopefully enjoying their cycling but having to do it in less than ideal places. Here? The opposite. Quiet country lanes and coastal paths and traffic-free off road areas and woodland. Only this morning I was chatting to a curious seal that popped its head up within yards of a coastal path. Who was watching who?

Senses. Pretty good aren’t they? I try to use mine to the full when out in the open. The sound of a crisp, brown fallen leaf under foot in the autumn. The smell of a summer meadow. The sight of a daffodil in a familiar hedgerow struggling in the cold of a late February morning, letting me know that spring is on its way. Being out in the natural world keeps me in touch with the subtleties of the seasons and with the notion of time ticking by.

I’m sure the wildlife and the surroundings are having a positive effect on my mental health. It helps me get things in perspective, recognise my place in the order and importance of things. And getting out there, whether walking, cycling or playing sport covers the other side, exercise and physical wellbeing. Importantly it helps to be in the moment. Mindfulness in a word.

The COVID lockdown has made me feel especially lucky to live in the Isle of Man. Now that we have a breather before a possible second spike, I aim to get out into nature as much as I possibly can. Only being allowed out once a day during the early days has made me make sure that I don’t take anything for granted. And at the top of the list is my appreciation of our wonderful UNESCO Biosphere.

The article was submitted as part of the UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man newsletter.