October 10th is World Mental Health Day.
Here at Massage Oxford, we’re big advocates of using professional massage therapy to boost mental health. It’s a great form of self-care – but not everyone can afford it.
Since moving to Oxford in 2007, we’ve found a few spots that we go back to time and time again when we’re feeling a bit low and need a bit of perspective or a fresh outlook.
Both Oxford city centre and the wider county of Oxfordshire are brimming with wonderful places to just sit and clear your head or find a distraction for a while.
After all, old Billy Yeats didn’t say this for nothing:
“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.”
As part of World Mental Health Day we’ve put together our top (almost) free things to do in Oxford that can boost your mental well-being.
We went with ‘almost’ free because some things you just need a couple of quid for!
Even if you don’t feel like doing it right now, just getting out there is a great start.
Take a stroll around South Parks
Sat on the edge of the city centre like a big green beacon of calm, South Parks is the perfect place to escape the bustle of town and the Cowley Road.
It’s the largest park within the city limits, a huge open expanse which is perfect for some breathing space.
Take a slow walk up to the top of the hill for some breathtaking views of the city – and maybe gain a little perspective on the way.
It’s also a great spot for amateur photographers to get some snaps!
Learn more and help protect the park over at Friends of South Park
Visit a community garden
Oxford is full of green-fingered enthusiasts turning little plots of land into gardens – often opening them up for us all to enjoy.
There are plenty of them dotted around the county.
Pop by just to admire the plants and vegetables or look out for one of the days where you can get involved with the growing process.
It’s a great way to feel part of the community and gardening itself is a great way to enjoy the outside – it’s it can strengthen your mental health and help with anxiety.
Here’s a few community gardens doing great work in Oxford:
Just take a walk
Sometimes we take Oxford for granted, especially when, like us, you’ve been here for a fair amount of time.
One thing we love to do is just get out the door and go wherever our feet take us. Oxford is full of surprises round every corner – that’s why 16,000 people visit us every day!
Wandering aimlessly around is often the best way to appreciate Oxford again.
If you fancy something a bit more structured, check out Oxford Walks.
Have a pint at the Seven Stars
This is a personal favourite of ours.
The Seven Stars is a lovely pub in the village of Marsh Baldon, about 6 miles outside Oxford City Centre.
It’s located right in the middle of the village green, a great spot just to sit and watch life go by. Take a walk around the nearby fields after for some endorphin-boosting exercise.
Staff are friendly and always willing to have a chat – plus the food is great!
Watch some non-league football
Even if football isn’t your thing, spending an afternoon in the sun at one of Oxford’s many non-league clubs is a great way to feel part of a community.
Going to watch Oxford United, the county’s only professional club, will set you back at least £20, so for an almost free day out you want to head somewhere a bit lower down the league system.
The atmosphere at these clubs is a lot more laid-back, built around a tight-knit community who will make you feel welcome – and persuade you to come back!
Do a parkrun
There’s a reason they call it ‘runner’s euphoria’. It can totally change your mood and your outlook on life.
We never thought we’d ever start running, let alone start enjoying it. But parkrun changed that!
It’s a free weekly 5k run for people of all ages and abilities – there are loads of them around Oxfordshire.
It’s a great community event each week and a chance to meet like-minded people.
Tracking your progress each week gives you a goal to focus on and a motivation to keep coming back.
There’s no better feeling than setting a personal best!
Take a class at South Oxford Community Centre
Located in a beautiful former Victorian pumping station, the South Oxford Community Centre runs a fantastic range of classes for all tastes and interests.
There’s arts and crafts, yoga, zumba, bingo, dance and even a farmer’s market on a Saturday!
The centre is run by a friendly team of volunteers who are always happy to have a chat.
Check out a list of activities here!
Take a class at West Oxford Community Centre
Just like the above, but in West Oxford. Again, a great team of friendly faces and a range of classes and activities to keep your body and mind active.
Join a community choir!
Singing to your heart’s content with a group of friends can lift the spirits.
Whatever your music tastes are, there are plenty of different choirs around Oxford offering you the chance to get involved and give those vocal chords a good run-out.
If you’re worried about botching a note or slipping out of key, don’t! Beside the great communal benefits, singing it a big group means you feel less pressured and can just savour the joy of singing!
Folk in Oxford
East Oxford Community Choir