Being outdoors is good for you!
Blog written by Alan Freeburn, Scotland Commissioner (Inclusion)
According to the Mental Health Foundation and the Office of National Statistics, young people between the ages of 16 and 29 are more likely to suffer from anxiety than other age groups.
Anxiety is a normal emotion in all of us but sometimes it can get out of control and become a bigger issue. For young people, this might be due to family or relationship difficulties or circumstances, exam stress, bereavements, starting a new job or any number of other reasons.
In Scouting, we know and value the impact of getting outdoors and connecting with nature. As we prepare young people with skills for life, our programme allows us to use the outdoors as a tool for building confidence and resilience as well as reducing anxiety:
Exposure to nature and green spaces. Being in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve mood. Our programme lends itself to spending time outdoors, which can help young people manage their anxiety.
Physical activity. Exercise is known to reduce anxiety by increasing endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters. Activities such as hiking and outdoor games and other outdoor activities can be part of a section evening or undertaken at camp. Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Learning new skills. Our skills for life vision helps us keep focused on giving young people the opportunity to learn new skills, achieving goals through leading the programme which can boost self-esteem and confidence as well as manage anxiety and boost mood.
Social interaction. Many young people who struggle with anxiety may have difficulty socialising or making friends. Scouting provides opportunities for young people to interact with others in a safe, structured environment. This can help them develop social skills and form new friendships, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
There are lots of mental health resources on the programme pages here that can be incorporated into your section evening but also consider, as we approach mental health week, how we can enhance the outdoor part of our programme to support our young people even more.
For further information on mental health and safeguarding look here.
There’s more information on our Million Hands Partner website of SAMH including the Five Ways to Better Mental Health which we can think about as we plan programmes. These are connecting with others, for example taking the time to check in with friends; being active, perhaps by fitting an extra or longer walk into your day; taking notice of things around us, being more aware of our environment especially the outdoors; learning new skills and also giving, for example fundraising, service or volunteering.
The very nature of what we already do provides opportunities and experiences for young people that can enhance their wellbeing, improve their confidence and resilience, reduce anxiety and improve mood. With an outdoor focused programme that can only get better.
~We spoke to some young people on this topic and here's what they had to say:
Being with the Explorers at camp has helped me communicate and make new friends. I love how we work as a team. - Erin, Explorer Scout, new to Scouting.
Scouting has helped me with my anxiety because feeling the fresh air on my face makes me realise the world is bigger than just my problems. - Katie, Explorer Scout.
Scouts has helped me manage my stress by enjoying working with others and being outdoors. - Dominic, Explorer Scout.
Scouts has helped me gain so much confidence with big camps such as Blair Atholl Jamborette as it helped me get out of my comfort zone. Scouts has been the biggest change in my life. - Keira, Explorer Scout.
Scouts has helped me deal with things better by being more social. - John, Explorer Scout.
Scouts made me feel better by being busy and meeting new people. I've really enjoyed learning new skills. - Ava, Explorer Scout, new to Scouting.