Keeping it Wild

I’m Amy, and along with my husband John we own and manage Wild Hideaways, a luxury lodge and eco spa retreat nestled in the rural landscape of the Mealagh Valley in West Cork.

In this blog series I’m going to explore all the things that I find keep me mentally and physically well as I live my life at Wild Hideaways. My hope is that some of these tips will be helpful to you, and that they might encourage you to come and visit us to see how our little slice of paradise here can help you reconnect, recharge and replenish your mind, body and soul.

Reconnecting with Nature: How Connecting with the Outdoors Elevates Well-being

This morning I spent four hours in front of my computer working on our website and perfecting our booking system. At 12pm, my body knew it was time for a stretch, but my mind needed a complete break from the screen. So up I jumped, called the dog, and we headed to the Mealagh Woods, our own little nature reserve just a few minutes away from Wild Hideaways. As Aussie (my dog) jumped out of the car, my mind was immediately calmed by the sights and smells of the woods beyond me. As I navigated puddles, traversed the river bank, jumped on stepping stones and bent to avoid low branches my senses  began to connect with my surroundings, and after a few deep breaths, my mind was free of the constraints of the dreaded screen, and I felt at ease and dare I say, happy!

As we navigate our busy lives, it’s essential to carve out moments to reconnect with the outdoors and reap the benefits it offers for our physical, mental, and emotional health. Now for you, that might mean a lunchtime stroll around the local park, or a quick lap around the block when you get home from work. Or maybe you’re lucky like me and live in the countryside with nature’s beauty on your doorstep. The point is, your mind needs a stretch as much as your body does. And that’s not going to happen in the gym staring at the 4 walls.

Recent studies conducted in Ireland shed light on the transformative power of nature on our health and happiness. A study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin found that spending time in green spaces, such as parks and forests, is associated with lower levels of perceived stress and improved mental well-being among urban residents. [1]

Moreover, research from the National University of Ireland Galway reveals that engaging in outdoor activities, such as hiking and gardening, can enhance mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. [2] Now, I’m not much of a gardener, as the weedy patches of dilapidated garden beds around my house will attest to, but I love a good hike, and we have a plethora of stunning hikes around here. From the amazing Mullaghmesha Loop that takes in the craggy and boggy hills of John’s home farm land, or the majestic views of the peninsula from atop Nowen Hill, the highest point in the area only a 5 minute drive from us, to the short road walk to Kealkill Stone Circle to soak in the magical ambience of the ancient Stone Circle just a mile from our property, we are literally surrounded by opportunities to experience some of the best West Cork has to offer – and we’d love to share it with you!

In addition to its positive impact on mental health, connecting with nature in Ireland can also promote physical well-being. A study published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science found that individuals who engage in regular outdoor activities have a lower risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular conditions and diabetes. [3] This underscores the importance of incorporating outdoor pursuits into our daily routines for long-term health benefits.

Beyond its tangible effects on health, Ireland’s natural landscapes have a profound influence on our spiritual and emotional well-being. The serene beauty of West Cork  evokes a sense of awe and wonder, fostering moments of introspection and inner peace.

As we navigate the complexities of modern life, let’s not overlook the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds us in Ireland. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll , a bike ride, or simply sitting quietly by a babbling brook, let’s take the time to reconnect with the land that sustains us and nourish our body, mind, and soul.

Until next time, and remember to Keep It Wild

References:

1. Dempsey, S., Lyons, S., & Nolan, A. (2018). The relationship between nature-based solutions to urbanisation and perceived stress among urban residents in Ireland. Health & Place, 54, 136–145.

2. Hannigan, A., O’Donnell, P., & O’Connell, K. (2018). The relationship between nature connectedness and anxiety and depression in Irish outdoor activity participants. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 21(1), 45–56.

3. Matz, C. J., et al. (2019). The relationship between greenspace and the risk of cardiovascular disease in Ireland: A national cross-sectional study. Irish Journal of Medical Science, 188(3), 933–941.