Why getting outside is more important than ever

Updated: Jan 29

As Autumn takes hold, the clocks change and the longer days are on the way out, some people may find themselves feeling anxious. This is certainly the case for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or ‘Autumn Anxiety’. Not only that, but an increase in working from home due to COVID has meant many are feeling the effects of Cabin Fever.

Getting outside during this time may be the answer!

Autumn in Leeds

What is Autumn Anxiety?

Although “Autumn Anxiety” is a relatively new term, the idea of Seasonal Anxiety is not a new thing. Many people who do not suffer from anxiety disorders or SAD find themselves feeling nervous at the beginning of the season. This can be due to any number of reasons, workloads tend to increase this time of year, and the darker nights mean less social plans as people withdraw inside.

More common symptoms of Autumn Anxiety are:

  • lethargy, sleepiness, and fatigue

  • low mood and depression

  • irritability

  • lack of concentrate

  • loss of interest in everyday activities

  • uncontrollable worry

What is Cabin Fever?

The phrase ‘Cabin Fever’ is used to explain several symptoms linked to being isolated. Due to COVID, Cabin Fever has become more common than ever. The emotional and behavioural effects are real and can massively affect the quality of life. The effects include:

  • difficulty with sleeping

  • Sleeping too much

  • lack of concentration

  • eating too much

  • drinking too much

Hasn't this always been an issue at this time of year though?

Yes, is the short answer. We have always been more likely to stay inside during the colder days.

However, before COVID and the ongoing Leeds lockdowns, there were social events like Leeds Light Night, any number of Halloween festivities, as well as the Christmas Market. These events were a way of getting out, seeing friends, and shaking off those Autumn cobwebs.

Now that these have been put on hold, we have less opportunity to get out of the house and fight off those seasonal blues.

On top of this, a large majority of people worked away from home. This would mean getting up earlier (we know we have been having a lay-in), and some level of commute. A bit of sunshine and looking at the world before starting work. With the rise of working from home, this has been quite significantly reduced.

Why would getting outside help?

A study carried out by Nature found that spending at least 120 minutes in nature is linked with good health and wellbeing.

They found that participants' happiness peaked when they spent between 3-5 hours a week outside. If you are someone who works a 9-5 day, this would mean that lunchtime is the perfect opportunity to get outside and eat your lunch in a park. However, sometimes it can be a bit too rainy or cold - so a walk around the block could be just as beneficial!

Get that good sunshine and exercise

Even though the days are getting shorter, there is still light during the day!. Daylight can help regulate the body's natural cycles and exercise releases endorphins. These endorphins are essentially natures high. They make you feel better. Not into running? No stress, a quick stroll and get you feeling better quickly.

Physical and mental health are linked. If you set a routine of a daily walk or go for a run several times a week you could get your allotted amount of nature, sunlight and exercise all in one!

Getting outside in Autumn

So I know what to do? Now, where do I go?

Luckily Leeds is full of incredible places to explore and get that fix of nature. You will probably have a small park nearby!

If you are at a loss for where to go or want to discover somewhere new we would suggest you take a look at Discover Leeds Outdoors section. They are continually adding new places, and show where to park and nearby places to get food. Perfect for that lunchtime break!

Several places deserve a mention if you are looking for pointers!

Woodhouse Moor/Hyde Park

Centred between Woodhouse, Hyde Park, Headingley and Burley - Woodhouse Moor is a great place to escape the humdrum of urban living. Interestingly it was the city's first-ever urban park! At this time of year, it looks incredible, and we would recommend having a wander of the area and maybe popping by LS6 cafe for a bite to eat.

Meanwood Park

Located 4 miles north of Leeds city centre, in the middle of Meanwood sits Meanwood Park. Meanwood Beck runs through the middle of it, and down into Meanwood Valley. If you have time to spare we would recommend exploring the Meanwood Valley Trail - 29 hectares of woodland, meadows and streams. The park itself is a great place to sit, explore, and walk the dog!

Burley Park

Although slightly smaller than the other two, Burley Park is a definite must-see during the Autumn months. Its origins stretch back to the Victorian era, with a bandstand, and bowling green. The paths weave between trees with golden leaves, and the 1km loop of the park allows you to step away from work. Get that breath of fresh air that you need!

Autumn is a beautiful season but can be a tricky time of year. Especially with COVID. Hopefully, these tips can help you make the most of the situation!

This is a guest post written by Discover Leeds.