Towergate Insurance, a caravan insurance provider, spoke to people who regularly go camping, caravanning or have taken part in a digital detox, to understand how these activities helped improve their mental health, and how others can benefit too. This comes following secondary research that revealed green areas are found to have a sustained positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.
The research highlighted that:
- If more people spent time with nature, visits to the doctor could be reduced, saving an estimated £111 million every year for the NHS.
- The Well-being Value associated with the frequent use of local parks and green spaces is worth £34.2 billion each year to the entire UK adult population.
- Only 5.9% of the UK is built upon, while the other 94.1% is either farmland, natural space or green urban areas.
Not only can access to green space improve mental health, length of life and circulatory health, but it can also contribute to measures to reduce health inequalities and promote healthy and active lifestyles according to the report.
With just over a third of the UK (34.9%) being classed as natural space, there’s plenty of opportunity for people to take advantage of the mental health benefits associated with being outdoors. Camping and caravanning are great ways to do this, and with over 6,200-member holiday parks and campsites operating across the country the UK spent £2.5 billion on trips of this kind in 2018.
Alison Ford, a Transformational Life Coach and founder of Simply Thrive, has given her top three pieces of advice for taking advantage of the outdoors to help improve your mental health:
- Take regular short, 10-minute walks while talking with friends in the outdoors.
- Try being barefoot in the garden, park or wherever you are in a natural space for short periods to help absorb the inherently positive energy from natural surroundings.
- Having taken time outdoors, ensure you record your experience in some way so that in future you can connect back to what brought you joy.
Additionally, Alison Ford has found natural surroundings extremely calming, providing a sense of perspective and space, as well as quality time with herself and her family, noting: ‘The sense of adventure is compelling – discussing with the kids where we’re going, who’s cooking, what we’re eating and what we’ll do is a navigation and negotiation that keeps us connected to what we really want and how to help others feel good too.’
Another outdoors enthusiast, Emma Cooke, has found that the outdoors and fresh air has had a huge impact on her mental health, but worries that social media and the need for a digital connection may hold others back from this, adding: ‘It allows me the space and time to think and be quiet. I always feel refreshed and recharged when I spend time in nature, we forget how noisy our everyday lives can be sometimes. I think sometimes people are reluctant to head off somewhere remote and be detached from social media. I personally love being somewhere that doesn’t.’
Indeed, being constantly connected can lead to becoming overworked and tired. Eliza Cochrane, who realised she was suffering from burnout after being exhausted by the monotony of everyday life, was transformed by a 10-day caravan holiday which helped her feel liberated thanks to a digital detox. She said: ‘At first I did not use my phone due to a combination of mental exhaustion, limited data and dodgy WiFi, but after a while of not using my phone I began to “rediscover” senses that I probably hadn’t sensed since the early 00s. I began to “hear” more, take more in. It’s hard to describe, but it was as though something was returned to me that had been lost.’
Claire Gardner from Towergate Insurance noted: ‘It’s long been accepted how powerful the outdoors can be for keeping our minds healthy no matter what the reason may be. But often our ever-increasing workloads, decreasing staff levels and the risings costs associated with living expenses get in the way of us being able to get away and enjoy what nature has to offer.
‘Camping and caravanning are affordable, accessible ways for people to take much needed time away from their desks and busy schedules. With over 6,200 holiday parks and camping sites spread across the UK surrounded by natural beauty, it would be great to see more people taking advantage of the British countryside, and hopefully reaping the multitude of physical and mental health benefits that the outdoors has to offer.’