How Going Outside Can Help Your Mental Health and Productivity
When I stay cooped up inside for several days or weeks in a row, my mind can begin to play havoc with me. The smallest tasks begin to feel like giant ones, and I start to get easily overwhelmed and anxious.
I’ve been working from home for the past 2 weeks - a big change from being surrounded by people for 8 hours straight, 5 days a week! And although I prefer working from home, I am aware of the effect it can have on my mental health.
Imagine the mind is like a box, and the walls of this box can mirror the environment you’re in - when you’re inside, the physical walls of a house, building, or car are physically close and the space is contained… but when outside, the walls don’t exist, and anything is possible!
So when I stay inside for too long, it feels as though the walls of my mind contract inwards. And when the box shrinks, all the things on my mind - what I need to do that day, any problems I have - seem so much bigger, and they weigh heavily down on my mind.
This feeling of being overwhelmed can cause me to procrastinate and put things off. The thought of beginning tasks feels impossible - you want to go to the gym? “How could I possibly find the energy to go to the gym every weekday this month?!”. You want to finish a painting? “I can’t even think about a composition, let alone know how to bring a painting to completion!!”
It gets much harder to shift your focus - your mind feels like it’s filled completely by your seemingly ever-growing to-do list and there’s no room to think about anything else.
So what do you need to do in this situation?
Getting out of the house or going out into nature makes it feel like the boundaries of that box expand, and all the problems that seemed like huge issues suddenly seem much smaller and more manageable.
When I go outside, I’m able to look at the bigger picture and begin to break down the tasks I need to do into smaller chunks - to get to the gym, I just need to get up and go, and then it’s done and I don’t have to think about it again until tomorrow! To finish a painting, I just have to start with some rough sketches to get a feel for the direction I want to go in.
It grounds me and helps me to think about the present and what I need to do NOW, rather than the future and its never-ending problems. Not only do tasks feel much more manageable, but I feel refreshed because I’ve allowed your mind to take a break and focus on something else for a while.
So to take a break from being cooped up inside for 2 weeks straight, my boyfriend Matt and I decided to go up to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains for a few days. Matt had a few days off before starting a new job, so it was a great excuse to get away!
Blackheath is a cute, quiet town. It’s a great place to feel more immersed within nature without feeling remote or excluded. We even took the dogs up with us for some company and an excuse to get out of the house for walks!
By physically removing myself from the confines of my house it also allowed my mind to remove itself from the confines of my to-do list! And upon returning home, I found it much easier to look at the bigger picture and work out what tasks I should focus on next.
So the next time the walls of your mind feel confined and you’re beginning to get overwhelmed - go outside! Even five minutes can help.
If you’d like to see more of what we did in Blackheath, check out the vlog below! :)