Walking can have a wonderfully positive effect on our wellbeing. Remember when you were a kid, and your gran would talk about the need for “fresh air and exercise”? As with many things, it turns out she was right, and more and more of us are discovering the mental health benefits of a walk in the great outdoors.
Here’s how walking can work wonders for your mental wellbeing.
According to MIND, ecotherapy is a formal type of nature-based treatment for mental health issues. Spending time in a green space, even an urban garden, is believed to have great benefits for our emotional wellbeing. Being outdoors is calming and many find a sense of peace in these surroundings. The emphasis on caring for the natural environment brings a positive focus.
Our walking holidays aren’t part of a formal echotherapy programme; however, if the idea of being closer to nature on the Cornish coast speaks to you, please speak to us.
Regular walking is recommended by the NHS as being great for your health. It’s simple, can be done with very little kit at first, and is easily adaptable for most levels of fitness. Walking is good cardio vascular exercise, builds up stamina and helps towards weight loss. That famous fresh-air-and-exercise thing can also help you get to sleep: essential for physical and mental wellbeing.
With physical fitness comes improved self-esteem. You’ll feel more in control of your body, with healthy, less-stiff limbs and an easy, confident stride. Setting goals (such as distance, speed, a more challenging new route, a longer walking holiday) gives walkers a sense of motivation and reward. And that feeling of joyful achievement when you smash that walking goal… We love meeting our walkers on the final day of their hiking holiday. They just seem to glow with a sense of quiet triumph.
We’ve all heard and read a lot about mindfulness recently: a meditative technique that involves letting go of all our troublesome thoughts and simply being in the moment. Some of us take naturally to a quiet contemplation approach – and some of us just can’t sit still! Time spent in nature, stopping to admire the pink campion or watching a bug cross the path, is a mindful exercise in itself. A walk gives you endless opportunities to stop and (literally) smell the flowers.
Or maybe, you want to use your walking time for some active thinking. Away from the office, away from the telly, away from the phone (signal can be patchy on the Cornish coast)… You’ll actually get chance to step back as you stride out, and really think things through, uninterrupted.
Tricky dilemma? Go for a walk. Mental block about a piece of work? Walk it out. Decision to be made? Take your thoughts for a walk. Have a look at this Stanford University paper about the positive effect of walking on creative thinking.
Even if you choose to walk alone, you’ll always meet a kindred spirit or two on a footpath. A cheery greeting can lead to a long conversation about the best routes, and we’ve met some great characters along Cornwall’s coast paths. You can join a local walking group, sign up to a national organisation like the Ramblers, or simply join a couple of online forums or social media groups that swap walking tips. Walk with friends, and enjoy putting the world to rights together.
We all know the feeling of stepping outdoors and taking a deep breath of fresh air. It instantly makes us feel better, and can be really calming. For some people, being outside has really positive, tangible benefits. If you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (known as SAD), which is brought on by certain times of year or certain weather, your doctor may recommend outdoor-based therapies.
Last but not least, walking is a pleasure. The beautiful scenery, the great outdoors, the sense of adventure and afterwards achievement… Release those endorphins by doing something you really enjoy, and take yourself off for a walk.
We’re walkers at Western Discoveries, not professional therapists; so if any of these points have struck a chord, please have a look at MIND’s website or speak to a therapist or GP. For more information about the mental health benefits of taking a walk, Walking For Health specifically looks at the relationship between walking and wellness.
If you fancy a healthy, endorphin-packed walking holiday in Cornwall, that’s definitely our area of expertise! Please get in touch with us to find out more.
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