One of the easiest and simplest ways to enhance your mental health while connecting with nature is to go out for a walk. I have written before about my pre-pandemic relationship with walking, and also a series of seasonal coaching walks for colleagues to follow during lockdown, so it will come as no surprise to regular readers that walking continues to be a core part of how I maintain my mental health.
The recent Brit Challenge was an amazing motivation to get up and out, even on those snowy days back in February. Since then I have completed a virtual Inca Trail, and now I am setting out to walk to Mordor (no mean feat – how Frodo managed 1,932 miles on those little legs I have no idea!). If you are looking for a challenge then The Mental Health Foundation is hosting a Take Action Get Active challenge throughout May.
Whilst I value that motivation to get out, once out I am very happy to wander without purpose. I breathe deep, enjoy the view (urban or rural) and take each step at a time. I have well-trodden local routes with familiar sights but also enjoy the discovery of somewhere new. If you want inspiration now is a great time – May is National Walking Month and there are lots of ideas out there. A new project called Slow Ways has also just launched, aiming to connect all towns with walking routes.
Sometimes, though, it’s not about clocking up miles or exploring new places, it’s just the joy of being outside. You might enjoy the peace and solitude, especially if your household or workspace is busy and noisy. Or it might be your opportunity to catch up with your favourite podcast or playlist (don’t forget to listen to the Walkie Talkies podcasts from Christ Church Sport and Active Health)
Another reason to spend time walking is to untangle your thoughts. I had a particular experience with the Labyrinth at St Martin’s Priory a couple of years ago, which helped me realise how important open space and fresh air was to my thinking. Since then I have discovered the concept of Street Wisdom, a free guided outdoor coaching experience – they are hosting virtual events throughout the week or have a downloadable audio guide to take you through the experience in your own time.
Sonia Overall, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, hosts weekly Distance Drifts every Sunday morning on Twitter – which are another great way to spend an hour wandering and noticing our world.
And if you find a park bench, take a moment, sit and enjoy, a pastime apparently enjoyed by Maya Angelou.
Plenty of ideas here – do you have any?
Juliet Flynn, People Culture and Inclusion Team