Together we can help improve mental health for CanadiansJanuary 12, 2021
Mental illness affects one in five Canadians, and these numbers have gone up since the start of the pandemic. A recent poll by the Mental Health Commission of Canada determined that stress levels doubled in many Canadians over the last year. Combined with reduced daylight and restrictive measures to stop the virus in some provinces, many Canadians are looking for solutions.
Some are now turning to changes of lifestyle. Our hiking trails and parks are busier than ever and it seems like the daily walk is more and more popular! Such activities help balance challenging emotions and other negative effects of this current forced sedentariness. Being members of the outdoor community, you are probably aware of the many mental health benefits of outdoor activities.
Growing scientific research on ecotherapy shows a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, depression, and anxiety. In a 2015 study conducted by the Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after a 90-minute walk in either nature or city. Those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination (repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions).
The British Columbia, B.C. Parks Foundation has been offering free forest baths to health-care workers to help ease the stress caused by the pandemic. Based on the Japanese practice of forest bathing, these 90-minute guided sessions have helped many of our healthcare workers lower negative emotions and feel better overall.
Moreover, if you can’t easily go into nature on a regular basis, a study from Scientific Reports published in 2017 demonstrated that nature sounds have a similar effect on the brain. While artificial sounds created an inward-directed focus of attention in listeners, natural sounds had the opposite effect with an outward-directed focus.
Whatever the activity is—it doesn’t even have to be active —, the Cambridge Health Alliance recommends 20 to 30 minutes in nature, three times a week, to help fight negative emotions.
With all the health benefits of outdoor activities, one has to ask why outdoor programs face so many barriers? For too long the community of organizations offering Led Outdoor Activities has been struggling more than necessary. It is now time for us to come together and create a future where we can all thrive.
Yes, it will be good for your organization’s bottom line. With the changes the Canadian Outdoor Summit will bring, more people will register for your programs. However, this is not about you and money. This is about the benefits your outdoor activities bring to the health and wellbeing of Canadians and increasing the impact you have on the world.
Be Part of the Collective Effort!
If you care about bringing people outside, this Summit is for you. It is designed to give space for your opinion to influence the results. Join this unprecedented national collaboration and help co-create the future of the outdoor community.
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