Embracing Cleanliness for Clarity: The Surprising Mental Health Benefits of Litter Picking

WHAT IS LITTER PICKING?

Litter picking is an act of environmental stewardship, where an individual or a group of likeminded, eco-conscious human beans selflessly work to remove potentially harmful single use pollution from the environment around them. Single use pollution can include anything from large pieces of fishing waste washed ashore on precious beaches, to food wrappers, cigarette butts, plastic bottles and anything else that doesn't belong in nature strewn across public parks and forest trails. If it doesn't belong, it gets bagged up and either recycled or disposed of responsibly.

 THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF LITTER

The environmental impact of litter is vast and far-reaching, affecting the land, the water and even the air when litter is burnt! Litter almost always begins its journey on land, making it's way into water systems after heavy rainfall and stormy weather, where it then continues it's journey into the seas. Each step of this journey the litter pollution wreaks havoc on the natural environment, contaminating soils, poisoning aquatic life and entering the food chain, ultimately affecting our own health. 

And it doesn't stop there, biodiversity and wildlife also suffer, animals all too often become entangled in plastic bags and fishing line, some animals mistake plastic for food, causing blockages and removing the ability to digest real food, leading to starvation. Habitat destruction is also an issue, litter can disrupt ecosystems and block waterways, disrupting the lives of animals depending on them for food and shelter.

MENTAL HEALTH AND OUTDOORS ACTIVITIES

Spending time outdoors is a fantastic way to boost your mental health! Studies have shown that Immersing yourself in nature will reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while improving mood, cognitive function, and sleep quality. Great sleep is the foundation for good physical and mental health, our internal body-clocks, (our 'circadian rhythm') has a huge impact on our mood and well being. Getting sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning, preferably while walking, in nature or a green space greatly helps to keep your circadian rhythm in check. Whilst outdoors try to focus on relaxed nasal breathing, this has been proven to further reduce stress and anxiety.

LITTER PICKING FOR MENTAL HEALTH

So, why is litter picking so beneficial for our mental health? Well, its the perfect concoction! (To get Rat Assed on life!) Litter picking combines the outdoors, walking (or jogging aka plogging), carrying heavy bags of litter, a feel good element knowing you're making a positive impact, as well as social connections, whether that be through organised group cleaning or interactions from strangers asking what you're up to, an added bonus when half the battle is spreading awareness!

All the components that make up litter picking have their mental health benefits, that's the beauty of it. Everyone and everything is a winner. First off, it is well known that our bodies release endorphins while exercising, that hazy satisfaction you feel after a hard days graft, increasing your sense of overall well-being. Carrying heavy bags of litter is a workout in itself, although you can choose how much to carry at a time, it can be good to set yourself a challenge to further increase the benefits of exercise, and if you're a bit mad like us you may even find the prospect of these challenges exciting!

After a days litter picking you will have feelings of accomplishment, an increased sense of community and belonging, with a big old smile on your face knowing you've made a positive difference. I can personally attest to the social connections forged through litter picking, having met many selfless, planet, animal, people loving eco warriors over the past year. It's been great and it's done my own noggin wonders.

GETTING INVOLVED, HOW TO START LITTER PICKING.

It's simple! Most clean-up organisers will provide litter pickers and bags although it's best if you can get your hands on your own litter picker! Then it can accompany you on many an adventure. Like most outdoor activities, litter picking can be dangerous, for example the extreme litter pickers (also known as green sockers), like Warm Norm from BHASSEXPLORE, on the south-east coast near Brighton, England, work under the huge, breath-taking white cliffs, with dangerous tides and other safety risks. Good footwear is always recommended, supplies such as water and snacks, hi-vis vests when roadside and hard hats when picking under unstable rock and debris is a must. 

Be sure to have a google or scan social media to find local clean-up groups near you! You'll be greeted with a warm welcome by likeminded fellows.

So, what are you waiting for? Experience the bliss that comes alongside litter picking, the outdoors activity for everyone. Witness the broader impact of your individual actions on the wider community and your own physical and mental health. 

While you're still here, before you set off on your very own litter picking expedition, why not check out our rebellious fashion brand, "Rat Assed", where we support clean-up groups around the UK by not only donating 10%+ of all profits, but get stuck in too, with our own ambitions to host organised clean-ups in the near future! Check out the Mad About Litter T-Shirt, or maybe the Earth Love Hoodie for all you planet loving eco warriors fighting the good fight out there!



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