Jen @ Excelsior Adventures: The Greatest Tools in My Mental Health Battle

As someone who has battled depression and has a long standing feud with anxiety getting out into nature is something that I depend on to appease the feelings that come with these fights. I was a really typical girly girl growing up but still loved the mud; I have the best memories of me and my childhood friends sticking our wellies on, wading through ‘the burn’ and adventuring through the trees like we were in some jungle but this love was neglected as I grew up. I began really struggling with my mental health as I got older and whilst my depression is definitely managed, my anxiety is something I wrestle with most days. I can get really bad mood swings, be pretty irrational with my thoughts, really criticize myself and find myself consumed with my own head – sometimes all I am really needing is a good ol’ dose of nature.  

 

Both hiking and paddle boarding are powerful cardio workouts and the strength that I saw myself build up within the first few months of paddle boarding was incredible. The physical benefits of these kinds of outdoor activities are great but what is really unparalleled is the impact it can have on your emotional and mental well being. Approximately 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime and at any one time approximately 1 in 6 people have a mental health problem.* With everything that is going on in the world right now people are going to need ways to help themselves stay in or get back into a positive state of mind.

 

Hiking 

 

My first true love, hiking. Now, I don’t mean climbing massive mountains with my crampons and axe or going out to tick off all 282 Munros – I mean just getting out onto the hills when I can and going for a couple hours up a nice big hill. Some people have a total misconception when they think about hill walking in Scotland and don’t realise that some of the most beautiful little hills are right on the edge of Glasgow. If you drive for 30 minutes outside the city centre you can come to the Queens View Car Park which takes you right up Auchineden Peak where you can check out The Whangie. Such a simple hill but with stunning views out over Loch Lomond, spotting Conic Hill and Ben Lomond and then Dumgoyne out behind you as you are walking up. I don’t think I need to list the health benefits of hiking because nature’s medicine is pretty well known. Don’t get me wrong, I love the big ones as well – Beinn Ime is my favourite and one of my top accomplishments was Threading the Needle up The Cobbler. I cannot wait to stand at the top of a hill when we are allowed and just feel that sense of achievement again, (although I am not sure where my fitness levels will be at after all this Disney+ binge watching and duvet days…).

 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding 

 

With paddle boarding being a full body workout this gives you all the scientific health stuff you learn about in Standard Grade PE (do they still do Standard Grades or am I showing some age?). It enhances blood flow, produces serotonin thus reducing stress levels etc. The best days to be out are definitely the sunny ones, which gives you are great boost of Vitamin D. Finally, one of the greatest things about paddle boarding is the focus that you need to have which takes your mind away from stress and replaces it with big blue beautiful views (and sometimes the thought of falling in…). I love my paddle board, like the actual physical board is one of my favourite possessions because 1) its bright pink and 2) it has brought me so much joy by creating so many amazing memories. As soon as we were allowed back outside it was the first thing I grabbed and ran to the nearest body of water!

 

 

Trying something new can be scary, but if you are struggling with your mental well being or just need something to help you destress using the outdoors is such an incredible tool. Ask questions, look for guidance but most importantly – be brave! I was terrified of the water until the first time I fell in and now I feel like Moana when I am out. Sometimes it just takes that first push to help you fall in love with the outdoors!  

 

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Jen @ Excelsior Adventures 

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*http://www.healthscotland.scot/health-topics/mental-health-and-wellbeing/overview-of-mental-health-and-wellbeing

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