John Burroughs said it best: “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” if you’re feeling like you need a change, like you need to breath fresh air, feel solid ground under your boots and , try just one thing from this list. I guarantee you’ll feel happier and healthier – a dose of the outdoors might just change your life.
Getting outside and setting myself achievable challenges is how I look after my mental health, and getting outdoors for happiness seems like such a simple and obvious antidote to frazzling modern life. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that any of these easy challenges to get you outside will change your life and your mood for the better. Don’t believe me? Try one thing from this list, I dare you.
Try one thing: 10 outdoors challenges that might just change your life
1. Get out of your comfort zone
What outdoor activity gives you the willies? Scuba diving? Cliff camping? Make this the year you push past the activities you know well and try something that gives you The Fear. The best way is by signing up to a course, so that you’re taught a new skill in a safe environment.
Change your life: Facing your fear and learning how capable you really are has huge mental benefits across all areas of your life.
2. Write down your adventures
Putting pen to paper (or keys to keyboard) is a creative and cathartic way to retell and relive the big and little adventures you take this year. I keep a diary full of random thoughts on the places I’ve been to, and reading old pages about past travels brings back the sights, sounds and smells of far flung countries and summer camping trips in vivid detail. And think – if you start a diary now and you can read about all your epic trips when you’re a granny.
Change your life: See your adventures in a new light and make memories for life.
3. Map your own routes
Map reading is a skill most of us could do with brushing up on, and regular navigating practice really helps my confidence. Try planning an easy hike or a trail run (I like View Ranger, as you can find lots of great routes already online to inspire you, too) near obvious landmarks such as roads or along the coast and have a go at reading a physical map or an online route.
Change your life: Having confidence in your own ability to plan hikes really opens up the great outdoors and makes you feel like you can blaze your own trails in nature.
4. Sleep wild
Blow the mental cobwebs away and get back in touch with the natural world by sleeping under the stars. Pack a tent or a bivvy bag (or my new favourite for sleeping wild, a camping hammock), check out my advice on where you can wild camp in the UK and go sleep outside.
Change your life: A night in the great outdoors is my instant fix for any worries – it’s free, quick and easy to plan and gives you a big big dose of fresh air and peace.
5. Volunteer your time
Working hard because you’re passionate about something, rather than because there’s rent to pay at the end of the month, is one of the most rewarding things I know. You can give your time as much or as little as works for you – the morning a week I spend working in a community garden is one of my favourite things in the world, letting me work hard physically, learn new skills and make a small difference to where I live. Or volunteer abroad and combine exploring a wonderful new place with something you care about, be that wildlife, social enterprise, teaching or conservation.
Change your life: Volunteering gives you the incredible experience of supporting a cause as well as improving your own skillset.
6. Get a qualification
There’s nothing better for boosting your confidence levels in an active skill than getting some professional training. You could take a climbing proficiency course to improve your belaying technique, have a few swimming lessons to gain strength before you take on a big sea swim or get some ski or surf coaching to learn how to tweak and improve your style. On my list? Taking an emergency wilderness first aid course – a no brainer if you’re off on remote adventures.
Change your life: The confidence that expert tuition and qualifications will give you will rapidly up your game and get you exploring better and further.
7. Make a change for the planet
Cutting down the single use plastic you consume is a brilliantly easy tweak you can make to help the environment, and one that’ll allow you to see instant results. Try these ten easy switches to limit your plastic use, including swapping plastic water bottles and takeaway coffee cups for reusable alternatives.
Change your life: Climate change is incredibly scary – making at least a small step to combat it in your own life is a good way to feel like you’re helping the planet.
8. Plan something you love
Sometimes work and life pressures can make it impossible to simply down tools and get outdoors. Don’t panic! My solution is to make a list of the outdoor activities that make me happy and then to book in lots of them for the coming months (or whenever you do have time). Like a surf trip to Ireland (my flights cost a grand total of £35), signing up for an Endurance Life half marathon and a summer camping trip in the diary. They’ll come around in no time.
Change your life: Planning time for nature in your diary helps break the cycle of being stuck indoors due to work and other commitments.
9. Go self-sufficient
Bike packing or hiking your jam? Practice carrying your own gear to find a huge sense of confidence and self-sufficiency. Self-sufficient trips are great rehearsals for bigger hikes and expeditions, and you’ll gain good experience in planning meals, picking lightweight kit, packing a backpack and learning what you can and can’t live without in the wild. If you fancy learning more about what to pack, I got tons of advice on what to carry and what to eat (plus some epic blisters) on JT Expedition’s training weekenders.
Change your life: Gain skills for big adventures and confidence in your own ability to look after yourself.
10. Climb a new mountain
Standing on a new summit brings a rea simple sense of achievement. Don’t fancy a big climb to the top? Try the easy but rewarding Sugar Loaf in the Brecon Beacons, or lovely Catbells in the Lakes. Or take on a Welsh or a Scottish classic like Snowdon, Cadair Idris or Ben Lomond.
Change your life: It doesn’t matter if it’s an easy scramble to the top or not – conquering a mountain and gaining the panoramic view of a wild landscape from the top always lifts the heart and helps me shed my worries – it’s one of the most mindful things I think you can do if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
What challenges and adventures have changed your life, or are on your bucket list?