Free Outdoor Activities That Can Improve Your Mental Health

Last Updated on 1st December 2023

Spending time in nature is proven to benefit your mental health, which could be useful for any suffering from depression, anxiety, and/or stress. Activities outdoors could improve your mood, help you to feel more relaxed, and also improve your physical health.

During a time when people spend so much time indoors glued to a screen, it can feel invigorating to spend time in the great outdoors. In fact, ecotherapy is a specific form of therapeutic treatment that involves engaging in outdoor activities in nature and can help with depression and anxiety.

So, what are some of the free best outdoor activities that could improve your mental health?

woman does some gardening


Gardening is a great option as you get the benefits of being outside without having to leave your property. Gardening can also reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve self-esteem by increasing self-efficacy. And if you have no outside space, you can still benefit from indoor plant pots or window boxes.

Gardening can also be highly rewarding and gives you the chance to enhance your living space, which has long term mindfulness benefits. On top of all this, it is a physical activity, allowing you to improve your physical health too. Gardening will involve taking care of plants, whether watering them or protecting them with polytunnel covers in winter.

And it’s more than creating a zen garden for your mind and body. If you plant and nurture fruit and vegetables, you can reap the harvest of natural organic produce, improving your diet too.

Birdwatching or Wildlife Photography

Birdwatching is an activity that can enrich your life in many ways, with many people finding birds so fascinating, long associated with freedom, peace, and spirituality. Not only is it beautiful and rewarding to observe birds in nature, but it also encourages you to get out and explore local parks and woodland areas.

The combination of physical activity, a change of scenery, fresh air, and connecting with nature and wildlife can have a powerful impact on your overall well-being. Birdwatching can also be a hobby that you enjoy by yourself, with family and/or friends, or as part of a birdwatching community.

If birds aren’t your thing, take your camera or smartphone and go for a nature walk to capture the beauty around you. Photography can be a creative outlet and a way to appreciate the small details in nature. Wildlife might be hard to find and requires patience, but that adds to the achievement, but there is always trees, flowers and the rolling hills to take pictures off.

man walking in the english countryside

Walking & Hiking

Many people turned to walking and hiking during the pandemic and found it to be essential for their physical and mental health. Walking and hiking are excellent forms of physical exercise, and they encourage you to spend time outdoors. On top of this, they help people to unplug from technology, escape the stresses of daily life, and provide a sense of accomplishment at the end (this can provide a self-confidence boost).

Many people find hiking to be invigorating and helps them feel more alive, especially when they spend a lot of their time indoors looking at a screen. Again, this can be a solo or social activity, depending on your mood.

Visit a Beach, River or Lake

Regardless of where you live in the UK, you are likely close to a body of water. Even our cities have canals and parks with ponds. As humans, we are roughly 60% water, so perhaps that is why we find the sound of waves crashing or rivers gurgling so calming. It’s even said the sound of rain hitting a window can help reduce stress and provide a sense of tranquillity.

As an added bonus, bodies of water such as oceans, lakes, or rivers, often offer stunning views and landscapes. The sight of glistening water, the reflection of sunlight, and the surrounding nature can be visually appealing and provide a sense of awe and appreciation for the natural world.

Spending time in the fresh air can do wonders for your mental health, especially when it involves the above activities. Spending time in nature and engaging in physical hobbies/activities can significantly boost your mental health and wellbeing, and help you feel more alive.

At a time when people spend so much of their time looking at a screen and cooped up indoors, the feeling of breathing in fresh air and exploring beautiful outdoor spaces can help people unplug and be more present, especially when partaking in an enjoyable physical activity.