This column has started at the perfect time of year for me to tell you about something which is particularly good for your mental health and well-being.

Autumn is well and truly with us, and many of us may feel less inclined to get out and about for a walk as the days get cooler.

However, this is a really good time for us to do it.

In addition to the general health benefits of walking, there is strong evidence to suggest that kicking up fallen leaves may have specific benefits for mental health.

I don’t want to turn this column into a science lesson, however, when we kick up leaves, we release chemicals called phytoncides from the trees.

These are natural compounds produced by trees and plants, especially conifers like pine, cedar, and fir trees. These are essential oils that are released into the air, particularly in forested areas. When you go for an autumn walk through the woods, you might notice a refreshing and invigorating scent in the air – that’s the result of phytoncides being released.

There is a growing body of research that suggests that phytoncides may have a number of health benefits such as, reducing stress and anxiety, by their relaxing and calming effects. Being in a natural environment with phytoncides can potentially improve cognitive function, attention, and creativity. This is often linked to the mental refreshment that comes from being surrounded by nature.

I would add, that while there is scientific evidence supporting some of these benefits, the effects of phytoncides can vary from person to person. Going for an autumn walk through the woods and inhaling these natural compounds can certainly provide a refreshing and revitalising experience.

Something else you might find interesting, is the fact that seeing a cute or curious squirrel, or something similar, whilst out for a walk, can trigger a positive emotional response. It may be perceived as a pleasant and unexpected encounter with nature, which can lead to the release of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward system, and it plays a key role in regulating feelings of pleasure and reinforcement.

So, what are you waiting for? If you’re looking for a way to improve your mental health and well-being, put on your walking shoes or boots, step outside, and enjoy the beauty of the nature we have on our doorstep in Cheshire.

Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities, and an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England.

If you are in any type of mental health crisis or emergency: Contact your GP, got to A&E or call The Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258