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How nature and the outdoors can improve your mental health whilst being at university

11 May 2021

4 mins

My name is Sam and I’m a student at Loughborough University studying Fine Art. I have lived in Loughborough for four years now, and during my time here I’ve found many different walks and places to go that help my mental health and wellbeing.

Over the last year, attending university has been very different to how it used to be. With no bars, pubs, or clubs open (what else is a uni student meant to do? Apart from focusing on their studies of course!) many people have struggled with their mental health – including myself.

With everything closed, I had to do something that would keep me healthy, both mentally and physically. I set myself a goal to walk 10,000 steps every day. This seemed like a lot, as over lockdown I had let myself get very lazy (as I’m sure many of us can relate to!). However, as soon as I went for that first walk, I was hooked!

It was a lovely sunny day and I decided to go to Queens Park, near Loughborough town. The park is a lovely spot and if you’re into animals and wildlife I highly recommend it, as there’s plenty of it! I came back from my walk feeling refreshed and a lot happier within myself.

I definitely believe that being outdoors and surrounded by nature can improve not only your mental health, but also your general wellbeing. Since I’ve spent more time doing so, I have noticed I am less anxious, more confident, slept better, feel more relaxed and feel healthier all round.

I have been enjoying going out for walks so much that I have now started focusing my degree around it using photography. One of my main inspirations for this has been Henry David Thoreau who wrote a book on solitude and how nature can improve your wellbeing, and I’ve carried on with this idea throughout my work.

For my photography, I needed to go to several different locations. At first, I was worried about this as I do not have a car and wasn’t sure if there were many rural walks in Loughborough where you can feel close to nature. However, after doing my research I have found plenty of lovely walks. Below, I’ve listed the ones I enjoy the most and feel benefit my mental health.

My favourite walk is the canal walk down the ‘Grand Union Canal.’ The first time I did this walk I enjoyed it so much, I ended up walking for four hours, ending up in a lovely town called Zouch. The whole walk you are accompanied by the gorgeous canal, with lots of different animals along the way – including cows! I love this walk because you can go on for as long or short as you want. On a lovely summer’s evening, this is one of the best walks I can recommend for your mental health and general wellbeing; it is so fun to do on your own or with a friend.

The second walk I found that is very rural and that I don’t believe a lot of students know about is approximately a 15-minute walk from the University Library.

It is called ‘Nanpantan Reservoir’ and on your way to this point, you will come across lots of different footpaths and walks you can do. I did this walk with my best friend and we both felt amazing after.

Some other locations which I think are great for walks around and near to Loughborough are:

  • Beacon Hill
  • Queens Park
  • Burleigh Wood
  • Charnwood Water
  • Garendon Park

I hope you try some of these walks out and love them as much as I do!

Sam Fairhead

Health and Wellbeing

Wellbeing means being in a positive physical, social and mental state. Wellbeing is important to us as happy, healthy people who achieve harmony in their work / life mix are more creative, productive and help to create a great place to work.

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