Nature offers one of the most reliable boosts to your mental and physical well-being.
Over my many years working in the voluntary sector I have witnessed first hand the incredible results from individuals and groups engaging in activities outdoors – “green gym” is the term that has been created for this type of activity, and its many benefits have now been well documented. “Green exercise,” which is exercise in the presence of nature, has unique benefits above and beyond indoor exercise. One meta-analysis of 10 studies found that physical activity outdoors for as little as five minutes leads to measurable improvements in mood and self-esteem.
I have always found that being outdoors, whether that’s in a garden, a park, by the coast or surrounded by the fells of cumbria (one of my happy places!) has enabled me to gain a deep sense of calm, clear my mind and tap into my creativity and problem solving abilities. I have always found that I have my best ideas when walking – which I am very happy to share with my long suffering partner who I’m sure would just rather enjoy the peace, serenity and scenery! One study found walking increased 81 percent of participants’ creativity, but walking outside produced “the most novel and highest quality analogies”.
Research has been demonstrating that there is a direct positive effect on various aspects of wellbeing and cognition and the time spent outdoors.
With both adults and children spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature, this life-style change clearly has been shown to have an impact on higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking. There is a theory that suggests that exposure to nature or being in natural settings seems to have a positive impact on aspects of our wellbeing. For example in one piece of research participants who spent four days in nature, and so had a disconnection from multi-media and technology, showed increases in performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% (Atchley RA, Strayer DL, Atchley P (2012) Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51474. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051474)
Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. “Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why,” Oppezzo and Schwartz wrote in the study (Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz Stanford University, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 2014, Vol. 40, No. 4, 1142–1152)
An increased amount of scientific research demonstrates the health benefits for humans to spend time with and in nature, and this combined with my own experiences through a lifetime of loving being outdoors and walking has led me to create an additional offer in the way that I work with both individuals and organisations.
“Couch to Coach” enables me to offer positive psychology and coaching delivered in an outdoor setting. Coaching with and in nature offers some valuable advantages, we walk and talk using the outdoor space as a catalyst for positive change.
There are a variety of ways that “Couch to Coach” can be facilitated and tailored depending on the setting chosen, these include:
- Public Parks & Green Spaces – walking and talking and/or using nature and our environment as catalyst to work with, e.g. seasons, cycles, the weather, plants and animals – which all provide metaphors and symbols that can be incorporated into the coaching process.
- Mindful Walking – an opportunity for you to use the process to help calm the mind and senses and have more time for quiet reflection to be built into the coaching process, allowing time and space for answers to be brought to the surface.
- Wild Wisdom – this is offered as a half day or full day workshop in a natural setting (usually woodland or countryside) and is a combination of positive psychology, coaching and mindfulness using various tools and techniques for well-being and incorporating silence, breath work and the creation of a deeper sense of connection to the natural environment. These events are sometimes run in partnership with an additional nature based educational practitioner who brings a wealth of skills and experience in this field.
Being outside helps to create a synergy between out inner world and the outer world and the freedom provided by being outdoors allows us an additional sense of freedom in the way that we think and problem solve. It allows us the opportunity to create and follow new pathways towards positive outcomes.
Please contact me to discuss how simplyhappy can support you, your community or business through positive psychology, coaching or consultancy in an outdoor environment.