National park urges locals to get out into nature and improve mental health
People are urged to move around the national park to improve their well-being after the lockdown.
The message comes as the annual Mental Health Awareness Week begins, with this year’s theme focused on nature and its role in helping people feel more connected to the world around them.
The charity behind the week-long campaign, The Mental Health Foundation, published research showing the importance of walks outside as a way to survive during lockdowns, with 45% of those polled saying green spaces had helped their mental state.
It also reports that 65% of adults in Scotland say being close to nature improves their mood and almost half – 45% – said they don’t connect with nature enough to improve their mood.
But only 11% of those polled said they found it quite or very difficult to access nature when they wanted to, with almost a third spending less than three hours per week in nature.
The desire to get out into the natural environment has also manifested itself in the influx of visitors to the national park following the lifting of restrictions to participate in outdoor activities as well as in the desire to return to the world around them. .
One of those people embarking on a new outdoor adventure since the pandemic is Danielle McGinlay, who has made a habit of diving into the freezing temperatures of Loch Lomond regardless of the weather.
The 30-year-old mum embraced the new hobby after suffering from her mental health during a rough 2020 – and is now urging park visitors to take care of the environment around them.
Danielle said: “I have had intermittent mental health issues for years and returning to work in a nursing home last year during Covid was not easy.
“I was having panic attacks and couldn’t sleep.
“I’ve never done anything like cold water therapy before, but I’ve found something that really works for me. Being in cold water surrounded by nature eliminates any anxious thoughts or worry reducing tension and stress on the mind and body.
“The tranquility of the lake allows my mind to be completely still and enjoy the present moment.”
“I have had such incredible benefits of being here that I am really passionate about taking care of the place. We recently arrived at the bay to find piles of trash and bottles lying around so we decided to do a cleanup.
“We also engaged the kids and posted posts on social media about it, encouraging people to clean up after themselves when visiting beautiful places like this. It felt good to take care of the area.
Simon Jones, Director of Environment and Visitor Services for the National Park Authority, said: “The national park offers us many benefits and everyone who visits, lives and works here has their own personal connection to this special place. .
“What we’re finding is that these links, and in particular the mental health benefits, are felt even more strongly after a year of restrictions.
“People who appreciate and connect with nature are something to welcome and support and in doing so we can also inspire people to appreciate what the national park gives us all and the ways we can each give in. return.
“It can be as simple as making sure you’re following proper safety advice, especially around cold water, taking everything with you after a visit, choosing sustainable transportation, or showing consideration for people. others while you are here.
“However we each choose to do it, knowing that we are giving back to this special place can have an even greater positive impact on our well-being.”