Getting outside can help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

PUBLISHED: 16:00 31 December 2019

Guest columnist and local author Emma Richardson.

Guest columnist and local author Emma Richardson.

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Guest columnist Emma Richardson talks to Ian Littlewood about his new group, Outdoor Mind, set up to help people cope with feelings of despair and anxiety.

With the Christmas festivities behind us, the dark nights and cold weather can seem overwhelming.

As many as one in five of us in the UK suffer some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, including low mood, feelings of despair and anxiety.

Lack of sunlight can affect hormone levels and disrupt circadian rhythms leading to disrupted sleep.

But recent studies have shown that people who get outside even for as little as two hours a week are much more likely to describe themselves as happy, and other studies show that our bodies are healthier, happier and brainier through time spent walking.

It was a love of the outdoors that inspired Ian Littlewood, owner of Exmouth-based landscaping company IJL Groundcare, to set up Outdoor Mind.

After losing a close friend to suicide and seeing others struggle with depression, Ian recently created the non-judgemental community group to encourage people to meet for walks in our local area.

The group is free to join and open to anyone.

Still in its infancy, group walks have been small in number so far, but Ian hopes they will grow over time as the word gets out.

"The walks are to suit all age groups and abilities; Woodbury walks only require a warm coat and boots. Feedback has been amazing so far. Even if it only helps a handful of people, it will be worth it."

To join Ian or to see what the group has lined up, search Outdoor Mind on Facebook and request to join.

A website is also under construction, which will be accessible to those people without a Facebook account, and should be online soon.

We are blessed to live in an area with easily accessible places to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and what better way to start the new year than boosting your mood and maybe making some new friends along the way.

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