Did you know that being outside is good for you? At MFML we love sneaking in a little outdoors yoga whenever we can but we also love going walking, running, cycling and getting in as much fresh air and R&R as we can. We’d like to share some of our favourite outdoor spots with you.
The Benefits of being in the Great Outdoors
Did you know that there are lots of reasons why you feel uplifted after spending time outdoors and in nature? The team at MFML spill the beans on what they do to get a nature reset and share their favourite green spaces. Being outdoors for as little as fifteen minutes will boost your vitamin D and you’ll get a creative boost at the same time. Natural light is an effective way to boost your mood and increase your levels of alertness and concentration too. You might also find you’re sleeping better as natural daylight helps to reset your internal clock.
Studies have shown that those living in urban environments suffer from what is known as cognitive fatigue which essentially means sensory over-stimulation. A Scandinavian study has shown that a view of trees or nature can lower stress levels rather than a view of buildings. Nature improves concentration and stimulates creativity by reducing the avalanche of man-made stimuli and this works equally for those spending time in their local park as hiking in the Pennines.
Kat Farrants: My favourite green space is my garden
Having an outdoor space is essential for me; it was the one thing that I had to have when I left London. In fact, I left London to have more access to space and countryside. My favourite green space now is my garden. I’ve really been enjoying getting stuck into gardening. I have a beautiful balcony garden where I’ve been growing lettuces, peas, beans and mange tout. Whenever I leave now, I can’t wait to get back to my garden which is bathed in sunlight all afternoon. It’s really possible with a small space to grow all sorts of vegetables and the best thing for me is that I’m producing zero fossil fuel and zero plastic food which truly is nourishing. I didn’t think I was a natural gardener but I’m absolutely won over and I’ve had success with my lettuce too!
The other thing I love is doing yoga outdoors. I love laying out my mat and moving in the fresh air. Best of all whilst I do yoga I can listen to the bees and the nesting birds, and watch the fledglings take flight. I’m always joined by my dogs and I wouldn’t swap it for the best studio in the world.
I live slap bang in the middle of a busy part of East London. Whilst I benefit from amazing views over the London skyline of both the City to the West and Canary Wharf to the East, I really miss having a green space outdoors. Before I moved here, I’d always had green space right outside and I hadn’t realise how much this is an essential for me.
I grew up seeing baboons stopping traffic to cross the road
As a small child I lived in Kenya. On my way to school which was next to Nairobi National Park, I would see baboons stopping the traffic to cross the road and giraffes dipping their necks as though to say hello. My view today is very different.
I am lucky though to live right by the Regent’s Canal and one of my favourite things to do is walk along the canal to Victoria Park. It has won the Green Flag People’s Choice Award for the most popular green space three times and is the only park in the UK to do so. It is also London’s oldest park and I would say possibly its most loved! It’s my favourite green space because it is so varied – there are formal areas: it has an amazing fountain and a Pagoda too but it also has lots of quiet, wilder spaces. There are two cafes, bandstands, avenues of trees and I remember there being a small deer park too, although the deer have now gone.
What I love about the park is that it really does feel like a garden and on hot evenings you see family groups gathering to picnic and get some air, friends meet and gather, children play and you see groups doing all sorts of activities from yoga and qigong to skateboarding. Best of all, one of the cafes has seats right over the lake, so you get coffee with a view of a patriarchal swan chasing and scattering gaggles of Canada Geese.
My house backs onto the West Pennine Moors and so within 10 minutes I can be in one of my favourite green spaces with an amazing view. I run there, do yoga there, say hello to people’s dogs, picnics, the list is endless. It’s a place of so much freedom and peace. I didn’t grow up far away. My parents home is about 15 minutes drive across the moors, so technically it is the same large expanse!
It’s very quiet and peaceful up there – particularly as I have funny working hours from teaching so usually it’s just me and the odd dog walker. Depending on where you walk, it can be very wild and desolate or you might stroll on to a manicured golf course or farm by accident.
My favourite green spaces give me a connection to earth and sky
There are wooded parts which I love because of the deer you sometimes see (closer to my parents) and then more open spaces and rolling hills. You see buzzards (usually hear them actually) quite a lot. I love this place in general because it’s easy to get into Manchester, just 15 or 20 minutes on the train, but it feels so separate and so wild and like it’s been there forever. When you can see the wide open sky you feel very insignificant and it’s easier to gain perspective.
The yoga I do is very different than my normal practice. No mat, no music – just a way of connecting to the earth and getting out of my head and into my body. Often I will practice inversions as it’s a soft landing!
I live close to the sea and I find happiness by taking long walks. I love walking on the beach because the wind blows out all the cobwebs!!
The wide open space and sound of the sea is so soothing and gives me space to just be. I love finding beautiful shells and stones and admiring the beauty of nature. It’s not just me though, researchers from the University of Exeter found that being by the sea is linked to better mental health. Sea air has been shown to have higher levels of oxygen and the sound of waves is soothing prompting deep relaxation.
Hannah Keywood: I get out into nature first thing everyday
My no. 1 favourite space in Bristol is Arnos Vale cemetery. It is 45 acres of space around a park and forest and I find it so peaceful and calming. The best bit is that it is on my doorstep so I try to start most mornings with a walk here, reading old gravestones and wondering about the stories of these people. There are 100s of different species of plants and trees and so much wildlife. I can get totally lost there following different paths and seeing where they lead me, and rarely see more than one or two other people or sometimes groups of school children reading books or learning about different plants or asking what the smell is (wild garlic!!) to their teachers.
Sometimes I sit in at the top of the hill looking out at the view of the city and set my alarm for 10 minutes and shut my eyes to meditate. I really look forward to this time for my mind to do a bit of filing 🙂 Sometimes a friendly dog comes over or someone sparks conversation, telling me how brave I am meditating in public, but it feels so natural in such an open space.
I also really love Brandon Hill, just off Park Street. I like escaping the madness of town and climbing to the top of the tower to look at the views over the city.
Jodie Nolan: Walking my dog takes me outside and closer to nature
My favourite green space in Bristol is the walk through Eastville Park towards Snuff Mills, a path that follows the river through the trees. It’s fresh and cool during the hot days, and the leaves glisten with a thousand shades of green as the light falls in. There is a tree that has fallen into a perfect sitting place where I can dip my feet in the cool water and take a moment to become fully present. A couple of times I have managed to catch sight of the electric blue Kingfisher who lives close by. This place is a refuge of peace, an escape from the hectic inner city, and I feel so lucky to have this on my doorstep.
My beautiful dog, Tala, brings me the gift of walking everyday. Even when I feel tired or low I have to walk with her and when I do, nature works her magic and I instantly feel better.
Your favourite green spaces
We would love to hear about your favourite green spaces. Why not tell us by sharing in the comments below or in the movers group. Tell us what you love about it and what you love to do when you’re there and you can always share your photos on social media and share with us by using the hashtag #movementformodernlife.