Mental health is in a way mental wellbeing. This is about our emotions, feelings, thoughts and ability to solve problems or overcome difficulties.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll be very familiar that I spend a lot of time (most weekends) in the Bavarian or Tirolean alps.
Since moving to Munich, I have realised that in a lot of ways that my my mental health has improved because there are a lot of activities here that I enjoy.
That said, there are also a lot of opportunities on the door step to my parents such as Northumberland and the Lake District, but I never utilised these while I lived in the UK. One thing I did utilise was mountain biking. This was something that I did a lot of just before moving to Germany in areas such as Kielder, Wales and Glentress.
That said, it isn’t just being in the mountains or outdoors that helps my mental health, it is everything surrounding it.
How have the mountains improved my mental health?
Emotion, thoughts and feelings: when I am out in the mountains, mountain biking in the UK or even by the coast, it takes me away from the rush of life, away from my apartment and into nature.
This connection with nature enables me to concentrate on the surroundings, which clears my mind and then enables me to put my feelings into perspective.
Problem solving: being in the mountains or on a mountain bike trail, things don’t always go to plan. The weather can change from one moment to the next, the avalanche risk means you have to wait or take a different route or your path slide away.
This means that you always have to analyse the situation, discuss options and find another way to do things, which continuously helps with problem solving skills.
Resilience: at times you want to give up in the mountains. You could be tired, things aren’t going to plan or just can’t be arsed.
By pushing through these situations, we can learn how to be resilient. You can read more on that here.
Social connections: when on an adventure, regardless if it is mountaineering, a polar expedition or a solo travel, you will always be required to connect with people. This connection could take place in an airport, train station, with your fixer or with locals in a remote town in Albania or even with fellow team mates.
Consequently this helps to strengthen social skills and communicating to different personality types across the globe.
Mindfulness: being mindful means that we are aware of our surroundings, feelings and sensations.
When preparing to head for the mountains or on a mountain bike adventure, it isn’t just being on the mountain or trail that helps with mindfulness, it is also everything before such as route planning, packing, booking travel, prepping food and travelling to the location.
Then whilst on the mountain, the sounds, smells, views and weather all bring me into the moment and enjoy the present.
It is more than just “being” in the mountains that has helped me. It has enabled me to have good mental health even though I live with mental illness (anxiety).
This will also be the same for your hobbies, even with things such as knitting. My mum and gran always have fun looking for their latest project, then finding a pattern, buying supplies, doing the knitting and seeing the result. This all helps with their mind.
Do what you enjoy.