If you go down to the woods today…it will banish the winter blues, say health experts 

Spending time in nature even when the nights draw in can help alleviate the winter blues, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Forestry England have advised.

Leading psychiatrists and the largest provider of outdoor recreation in England are urging people to continue venturing outdoors this autumn and winter to improve their mental health.

One in three people in Britain suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as the days grow shorter but studies have shown that visiting forests can boost social, mental and physical health. Walking in nature also improves cognitive function and helps support the immune system.

However, one in five people who visit forests regularly say they never go in the wintertime.

“Spending time outdoors in nature, including in woodlands and forests, can really improve mental health,” said Dr Alan Kellas, a psychiatrist and lead for Green Care on the Royal College of Psychiatrists’s Sustainability Committee. 

“Our senses are engaged differently, our attention changes, we naturally become more mindful, our mood settles if aroused or anxious, or lifts if low or depressed, our imagination can be sparked and we can gain a different perspective on our lives, projects and problems.

“Noticing the way trees grow and mature, their autumnal colours or winter skeletons, or the way wildlife adapts to seasons changing, can help slow our ruminating thoughts and help us see our place in the wider web of life.”