How a Connection with Nature Can Benefit Your Mental Health

The wellness benefits of green space are well-known and, particularly throughout and following Covid-related lockdowns, more important for our health than ever. With stress being the number one reason for Brits missing work, taking a proactive approach to wellbeing and finding more ways to de-stress is essential.


A survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that 45% of people in the UK visited green spaces to help them cope during extended social distancing measures. As measures are relaxed, the relationship many have to nature may have changed permanently as they seek to maintain the benefits they found during lockdowns.

Another study by the European Centre for Environment & Human Health found that it takes 120 minutes of time spent in nature for people to say they feel healthy and have a strong sense of wellbeing. Whether the change is psychological or physical, getting out into nature for at least two hours a week could cause a significant change in your mood and your approach to living healthily.

One of the wellness industry’s latest hot topics, forest bathing, follows a similar approach to wellness. Studies into the Japanese practice found that two hours of mindful exploration through a forest could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol and improve concentration. Researchers use the term “connectedness” when discussing your relationship with nature, relating to how you interpret that relationship and what you do to maintain it. 

The UK’s Most Tranquil Parks & Gardens

If you’re looking to improve your own connectedness with nature, exploring the UK’s many beautiful parks, gardens and estates can be a great way to start.

Whether it’s during the school holidays or simply to get away from the rush of modern life, many visit gardens and parks as an opportunity to slow down and find peace. With this in mind, UK Saunas has analysed TripAdvisor review data for properties owned by the National Trust to identify the most peaceful places to visit in the country.

The Top Ten: Mapped

Winkworth Arboretum, in Godalming, Surrey, claimed the top spot for the most tranquil National Trust estate in the UK. The Arboretum received 577 unique visitor reviews last year. Overall, there were 133 mentions of keywords “quiet”, “peaceful”, “tranquil” and “relaxing”. They were present in 23.5% of total reviews. Claremont Abbey ranked second, with the aforementioned keywords present in 21.16% of reviews. Rowallane Gardens, Sheffield Park and Fountains Abbey also ranked highly. 

Score Breakdown

Estate Quiet Peaceful Relaxing Tranquil Of Total Review
Winkworth Arboretum 35 47 22 29 23.05%
Claremont Garden 24 21 23 12 21.16%
Rowallane Garden 8 11 8 2 20.14%
Sheffield Park 37 66 41 33 14.41%
Fountains Abbey Estate 69 198 88 86 10.98%
Mottisfont 32 55 44 33 10.81%
Clumber Park 41 48 53 17 10.75%
Stourhead 56 93 82 42 10.55%
Nymans 21 41 42 13 9.69%
Cliveden 34 34 30 10 9.57%

Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey

Winkworth Arboretum is a National Trust owned estate in Goldaming, Surrey. Spread over 95 acres, the Arboretum is the perfect place for a relaxing walk. Winkworth Arboretum was founded by Dr Wilfrid Fox just prior to the beginning of the Second World War and is now home to a fascinating collection of over a thousand trees and shrubs. The Arboretum has been specifically designed to showcase the changing seasons. Visit during spring to see magnolias and bluebells in bloom. Struggling for inspiration for the Easter holidays? Winkworth Arboretum is offering a wealth of seasonal activities. The Easter Trail, which is great for younger children, runs between 2-18th April.

Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

Nestled in the beautiful Surrey countryside, Claremont Landscape Garden is one of the oldest surviving gardens of its kind. Previously home to Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, Claremont Gardens was popular with both British and foreign royalty. Queen Victoria frequently visited Claremont as a child, eager to escape the monotony and isolation of life at Kensington Palace. The garden sprawls 49 acres and features a serpentine lake, turfed amphitheatre, belvedere tower and grotto. Later this year, Claremont is welcoming four outdoor theatre companies and has released an exciting entertainment programme. Visit this spring to see the camellias in bloom. 

Rowallane Garden, County Down 

 

Rowallane Garden, located in County Down, Northern Ireland, is the perfect place for a peaceful stroll or some quiet contemplation. It’s famous for its extensive collection of azaleas and rhododendrons and is home to the national collection of penstemons. The walled garden, originally used for the propagation of vegetables, is Francis Burnett’s “The Secret Garden” brought to life and features ornamental planting and a pond. There is also a woodland walk, wildlife meadow and rock garden. Visit between 15-24th April to discover Rowallane’s Easter Adventure Trail.  

Methodology

Using visitorship figures from 2020/2021, UK Saunas identified the 50 most popular National Trust properties and analysed TripAdvisor reviews for mentions of words relating to peace.

Words analysed:

  • Quiet
  • Peaceful
  • Relaxing
  • Tranquil

The results were then determined as a percentage of the overall reviews to find a proportional representation for each property.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Cold Therapy?

While we’ve extensively covered studies into the benefits of sauna use, including for those with chronic health conditions, we thought we’d analyse some of the discussions around the latest wellness trend to start spreading through social media – cold therapy.

Cold therapy includes immersion in a cold environment, such a cold shower, ice bath or open swimming session. These practices have many reported benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving immune responses and boosting metabolism.

Practitioners like the Dutch motivational speaker Wim Hof have recently been popularising a form of cold therapy that is taking off in popular culture, with fitness professionals, influencers and celebrities all claiming to enjoy regular ice baths and the use of cold therapy machines.

Using cold to treat illnesses has a long and ancient history, but how much of the currently-touted benefits can you really expect to enjoy from cold immersion?

What are the Benefits of Cold Therapy?

The majority of evidence for the benefits of cold therapy is anecdotal, with most studies highlighting the limitations of their own data ranges. While this means there is some evidence to suggest users may experience most of the supposed benefits of cold therapy, this isn’t definitive and should be regarded as such.

Treats Inflammation and Muscle Soreness

Cold has historically been used to treat inflammation and swelling, with its uses being dated back to Ancient Egypt. The common approach to injuries during exercise is the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and cold therapy works in a similar way to reduce swelling and soothe muscle pain after working out.

Boosts the Immune System

A Dutch study into the effects of activities like cold therapy, meditation and deep breathing saw a positive relationship between those practising the acts and an improved immune response to bacterial infection. The study noted that the test group saw a boost in the production of anti-inflammatory mediators and a reduction in proinflammatory cytokines.

While this study actually credits deep breathing exercises with having the most significant effects, it credits cold water therapy with improving the body’s reaction to excess stress over time.

Treats Depression

One study on how regular cold showers impact depressive symptoms found two cold showers a day reduced depressive symptoms in all of the test subjects, suggesting there could be a relationship between the two.

This study, however, also noted that the number of subjects was statistically insignificant and, of those tested, none had been clinically diagnosed with depression. 

This suggests that using cold therapy to treat depression can’t be taken as a scientific fact. Although, cold therapy like wild swimming or ice baths following exercise could be more likely to contribute to improved depressive symptoms due to their relationship to other positive factors like regular exercise and connection to nature.

Increases Metabolism

Some studies, like this one from 2010, have identified that cold water therapy can increase metabolism which can promote weight loss. This study observed increased metabolic rate from cold water immersions 5 periods of 5 minutes but it also notes an increase in oxidative stress, which can be harmful to the body tissues. 

The study notes that this can be reduced with acclimatisation, stressing the importance of gradual build-up with cold therapy for the best results. This also only covers cold water immersion, meaning regular cold showers may not have the same effects.

Improves Mood and Sleep

Exposure to uncomfortable levels of cold is said to boost the production of noradrenaline, a stimulant hormone that can affect attention and motivation, contributing to an improved mood. There are also suggestions that a lower body temperature is ideal for sleeping, meaning a cold shower before bed could improve how much deep restful sleep you get each night.

What is Hot and Cold Therapy?

Hot and cold therapy is typically used to treat muscle aches, sprains and other issues, typically following strenuous exercise. Hot therapy, including sauna therapy, is best for stiff muscles to help relax and for chronic conditions like arthritis. Cold therapy is more suited to treating inflammation and swelling, like in sprains and conditions such as gout and tendonitis.

Using hot and cold intermittently can be effective at managing pain from exercise but should be avoided if you have open wounds or swelling and inflammation, as heat therapy can sometimes have a negative effect on these issues.

Cold Therapy for Weight Loss

Some cosmetic procedures, like CoolSculpting, use extreme cold as a form of ‘body sculpting’ to freeze fat cells in order to shape the body in a specific way. However, this is unrelated to cold water therapy’s use in order to boost metabolism.

There have been studies that have found cold water immersion improves metabolic rate. This is because exposure to cold leads the body to work to generate its own heat, helping to burn more calories. 

This means that regular ice baths or cold water immersion could help improve metabolism in the short term. No studies have yet to find a long-term metabolic benefit to ice bathing and it’s unlikely that the practise leads to significant weight loss when used on its own.

How Cold Therapy Works

When immersed in cold water, your blood vessels contract, reducing blood flow through your body, which is why the practice can be helpful at fighting inflammation and swelling. It’s also thought that, due to the huge amount of cold receptors on the skin, the initial shock from the exposure leads to a surge in electrochemical activity and the boost in the production of a number of hormones and other chemicals in the body.

How to do Cold Therapy at Home

Cold therapy is gaining popularity most likely because it’s a highly accessible practice that anyone can take part in. The hashtag #coldtherapy has over 95m views on TikTok, with #coldshowerchallenge currently on 4.8m views. 

If you’re looking for a full-body immersion, wild swimming or ice baths are a good place to start. 

Making an Ice Bath:

  • Add ice to cold water and ensure the temperature sits at around 10-15 degrees Celsius.
  • Start gradually, staying submerged for a minute and building up to no more than five minutes at a time.

Tips on Wild Swimming:

  • Never go alone, cold water can cause shock and can affect your reaction times.
  • Ensure you warm up immediately – take a hat, gloves and towel or robe, walk around to raise body heat or find a warm place to sit once you’re done.
  • Don’t warm up too fast, though – rapid changes from cold to hot may cause you to pass out.

If you’re not yet brave enough to take the plunge, you can start cold water therapy with cold showers. Start by showering at your preferred temperature and gradually reduce the temperature until the feeling of discomfort doesn’t subside. Spend only a short amount of time under the cold water at first but gradually build yourself up to a minute or two to start enjoying some of the benefits of cold water therapy at home.

 

The Best UK Cities for Mental Wellbeing: Mapped

As Covid-19 cases spiked and the UK went into lockdown, mental wellbeing was thrust suddenly into the forefront of our collective consciousness. Almost two years later, people across the UK continue to report feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety, due in part to lack of socialisation and inaccessibility of mental health services. 

Continue reading “The Best UK Cities for Mental Wellbeing: Mapped”

UK Wellness Report

Wellness is a multibillion dollar industry worldwide, with everybody from Gwyneth Paltrow to Lily Allen promoting the value of mental, physical and interpersonal wellbeing.

At UK Saunas, we are staunch advocates for all types of wellness so we've taken a deep dive into the data, examining thousands of listings for therapists, gyms and spas, along with a huge range of wellness signifiers to find out which cities in the UK value their inhabitants' wellness the most.

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Give Something Special for Mother’s Day: 11 Different Oils for Enhancing Positive Moods

The Power of Aromatherapy (Mother's Day Edition!): 11 Essential Oils For Positive Feelings

In our last post, we outlined the romantic benefits of essential oils, appropriate for Valentine's Day, and the associated "moods"  produced from each oil when used correctly within aromatherapy.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio, from Pexels

We wanted to expand on the last list due to the advantageous power of the essential oils for a variety of people, going further than simple romantic feelings! 

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UK Saunas: Sauna and Natural Ingredients for Clear Skin

Acquiring clear skin can be a difficult goal to accomplish, but there are tips online to help your skin routine, including saunas and natural ingredients for clear skin!

Simple moisturizers can be beneficial for skincare, but what most don't know are the chemical attributes implemented within them, and that's why using natural ingredients and saunas are a key utility for maintaining clearer skin.

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The UK’s Most Calorie-Burning Theme Parks

Did you become a running fanatic during lockdown or did you use the time to slow down and pick up a relaxing hobby? Whether or not you fell into the fitness fanatic category during lockdown, with places gradually starting to open up, now is the perfect time to get outside and be more active.

What better way to get your step count up than a fun trip to a theme park? With several of these opening to the public once again, you can enjoy a day out with your friends and family, with plenty of walking around, rides and doughnuts involved (it’s all about balance!) Continue reading “The UK’s Most Calorie-Burning Theme Parks”

Managing Stress at Home: Tips & Tricks From The Experts

The COVID-19 crisis has in many ways led to a dramatic overhaul in our day to day lives. Old routines have now been replaced with new and more cautious ones. A year ago, nobody had heard of the now-popular phrase known as ‘social distancing’, which has recently become the norm in an effort to try to save lives.

We have spoken to the experts on simple yet effective ways to manage stress at home without spending a penny. From tips on mindfulness and health advice, to apps you can download, you can find them all in this helpful guide. Continue reading “Managing Stress at Home: Tips & Tricks From The Experts”