Getting away from the stresses of modern life can be the perfect tonic for your mental health. With many of us having been stuck inside for over a year now, the constant strain of your screen, Slack messages, emails and video calls can really get you down, with our usual escapes unavailable to pick us back up again.
In fact, one in six people in the UK claim to suffer from a mental health problem, with depression thought to be the second most common cause of disability worldwide.
More health insurance providers have counselling, rehabilitation services and cognitive behavioural therapy available through their services, always “make sure to check your health insurance policy covers psychotherapy first, then contact your insurer” states Dr. Alexander Lapa, a psychiatrist from Ocean Recovery Centre.
Fortunately, one thing COVID-19 hasn’t impacted negatively is the environment. The world is home to some truly stunning national parks, with nature and wildlife as far as the eye can see.
We look at which national park is best for your health, taking into account the amount of green space, low number of visitors, peaceful rivers and lakes, air pollution levels, species of plants and animals, and mindful activities on offer, as well as spas and wellness centres. Put your boots on, get outside and soak up the good vibes. Your health will thank you for it.
The Swiss National Park in Switzerland comes out at the top of our list. With only 150,000 visitors every year, you can be sure to enjoy plenty of peace and quiet as you take in the stunning mountain views and icy vistas. If it’s more active relaxation you’re after, the park offers an incredible 71 workshops and a further 83 spa and wellness classes.
Air pollution is also incredibly low here, with a score of 11 out of 100 meaning the air is truly fresh.
Banff National Park in Canada is number two, with its 664100 hectares of unparalleled mountain scenery nestled in the heart of the magnificent Canadian Rockies offering 844 different plant species and nine boat tours on offer to help you escape the daily grind.
Rounding up the top three is Fiordland National Park in New Zealand. The incredible fiords here are so clear it looks like the sky is all around you, with snow-capped mountains and three beautiful lakes creating an idyllic hideaway sure to put your mind and body at ease.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Lapa, commends the benefits of natural beauty spots detailing research on ‘ecotherapy’.
“The Japanese have been practicing Ecotherapy as it’s commonly known for years, with something called Shinrin-Yoku which means forest bathing. Not only does forest bathing provide mental benefits, but it also provides benefits to your bodily functioning too. The trees emit essential oils which have been shown to boost our immune systems, reduce blood pressure and more. Those locations which require exercise will also offer a little bit more to mental health too. When we exercise, endorphins are released and interact with receptors in the brain The endorphins that are released when we exercise interact with the brain receptors and they relieve stress on the body.”
Putting your mind on something else is a great way to take it off anything that might be worrying you, and some national parks are full of activities to help you refocus your thoughts.
Swiss National Park comes out on top again here, with 71 workshops, 83 spa treatments, 14 hiking routes and 75 boat tours giving you ample opportunity to feel distracted and divine.
Cinque Terre National Park in Italy is second. While this beautiful coastal area only offers eight classes and two spa treatments, it more than makes up for it with 48 hiking routes and 34 boat tours. What better way to take in the stunning scenery?
Goreme National Park in Turkey is third. This breathtaking landscape is entirely sculpted by natural erosion, leaving behind some truly remarkable sights that you won’t believe aren’t man-made. With 25 hikes and 10 boat tours on offer, you’ll be able to take them all in from every unbelievable angle.
Different people find different ways to unwind, and our selection of national parks has something for everyone.
Bohemian Switzerland National Park in the Czech Republic is best for air quality, with a score of 0 out of 100 on the pollution scale. The stunning architecture comprises numerous castles as well as Europe’s largest sandstone arch, all of which can be enjoyed while inhaling the purest of air.
If it’s wildlife you’re after, look no further than the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. There’s 62,645 animals living there of all shapes and sizes, all of which can be seen from a safe distance on one of the park’s 881 safari tours.
Finally, if sitting by the water helps you unwind, there’s only one park worth considering. Yellowstone National Park in the USA has 600 lakes and 1000 rivers to enjoy, as well as the odd grizzly bear that’s best enjoyed from far away.
It’s estimated that one in four of us will suffer some kind of mental health problem during our lives, while one in five will sadly consider suicidal thoughts to combat them.
Giving your mind space, calm and tranquility can really help you relax, especially after what has been an especially stressful year. With health insurance, every little bit helps when it comes to saving money, and our national parks are a great way to improve both your mental and physical wellbeing.
We’ve all been trapped inside for too long. Now the rules are relaxing, make the most of the great outdoors and see what it can do for you.
After over a year of delayed NHS appointments and Covid backup, it could take a long time for things to get back up and running. With private health insurance, you could skip the queues and get the cost of any treatment covered by your provider. Not only could this mean you’re seen much faster, but it will also ensure you’re seen by dedicated experts in a clean, safe environment.
Compare our health insurance quotes today to see how affordable fast, specialist medical care could be.
The pandemic has had a devastating effect on people’s mental health, with 24% of UK adults feeling lonely and a staggering 62% feeling stressed or anxious.
The uncertainty of what was coming next led to 53% of people developing anxiety, with many of us who’d previously been in full time work with busy social lives suddenly feeling isolated and lost.
As we start to see hope on the horizon, it’s important to give yourself some time to adjust. Self-care has never been more important, so whether that’s catching up with friends, meeting your family or simply heading outdoors and soaking up the atmosphere, make some time for yourself and don’t do anything you feel uncomfortable with.
Our minds have been put under unprecedented levels of stress recently. They deserve some special attention.
We researched 30 of the most beautiful national parks according to National Geographic, gathering information from the park’s official sites and other reliable sources. We used a weighted rank, scoring each park for the amount of green space, rivers, lakes, species of plants and animals, hikes, boat tours, classes and workshops, spas and wellness centres at each park. We also scored the park's for low visitor and air pollution levels, totalling their score to reveal the most mindful parks overall. Separately we summed up the number and variety of mindful activities at each park to reveal the best parks for mindful activities.
Commentary on mental health benefit and ecotherapy courtesy of Dr. Alexander Lapa, psychiatrist for Ocean Recovery Centre.
Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press.