The power of being outdoors is universally accepted as nature’s way of creating mental health benefits. Which is why so many successful mental health programs are taking men out of their living rooms, away from the distractions of a ‘normal’ routine.
For example, The Fly Program, hosted in the NSW Snowy Mountains, uses the ‘hook’ of fishing to take blokes on a life-changing mental retreat in the wilderness over several days.
Waves of Wellness unifies young and older men in the ocean, building rapport and mental resilience as they learn how to surf.
Cycling clubs and groups – whether informal or organised – are a popular way to get outdoors for men. Ashley Bennalack, who runs cycling get-aways at cyclewell says people who go on his camps in the Victorian high country leave feeling more confident and in control of their lives. The camps ride high on mateship and give participants tools in stress management, healthy eating, and lifestyle habits.
Tasmen have been running three-day gatherings for over 20 years in Hobart, and are leaders in the field. Putting men in the wilderness, creating a mixture of drama, experience, workshops, laughter and friendship are the foundations of Tasmen’s gatherings.
But you can also get outdoors in a more localised way. A walk, long or short, brings mental health benefits, hence the rising popularity of the Man Walk movement which has groups springing up Australia-wide.
According to the Queensland Government, spending time in nature has big benefits for your mental wellbeing, with studies showing improvements to mood and reduced stress levels. One of Qld Governments’ key mental wellbeing initiatives is to encourage people to embrace nature.
- Lowering of blood pressure
- Improving your immunity
- Exposure to the sun and increased vitamin D
- More mood-stabilising chemicals like serotonin
- Better sleep-wake cycles
The campaign has a nifty online tool that suggests a great range of activities for getting outdoors based on how much time you have, and whether you are going solo or with others.
For example, suggestions for a 15-minute ‘embrace nature’ activity include taking a lunch time stroll, eating lunch outside, or simply opening up a few doors and windows to let the fresh air in. The tool comes with buttons for combining other mental health-inducing activities linked to better health such as showing kindness, connecting with others, learning and staying present.
TIPS FROM THE TOP
The Australian Men's Health Forum surveyed men for World Mental Health Month 2020 on the 10 Habits of Mentally Healthy Men. 97% agreed that being out doors and spending time in nature helped them stay mentally healthy. Here's what some of them had to say:
Nature is nurture, to change environments is critical for good mental health and physical health.
The fresh air wakes me up.
It is the only thing that centres me, grounds me and allows me to relax.
I spend most of the day in the garden or the shed with all the doors open. Plenty of D's to keep my brain warm.
The beauty to be found in nature soothes me feelings.