Walking is a big part of my life and I truly believe that it has a big impact on my mental health and wellbeing. Having my lovely girl Milly means that most days I go for two walks, before and after work. At the weekend I try and take her for a longer walk. In the past I have trekked the Great Wall of China and the London Thames Bridges Trek for charity. I’ve also still got to walk on Hadrian’s Wall as part of my 30 before 30 list.
Walking can definitely help your mental health, it’s why Mental Health Mates groups are popping up all over the place. I definitely miss walking and my mood suffers when I can’t get out and stretch my legs, so here’s my seven reasons why walking is good for your mental health.
1. Fresh Air
‘It’s nice to get some fresh air’ is probably what I say most when I get outside! There’s just something about a nice cool breeze, a deep breath of oxygen which lifts my spirits. So go on, get outside and let the fresh air blow away the cobwebs.
2. Vitamin D
If you’re lucky the sun will be shining on your walk. Vitamin D can boost your mood and aid wellbeing. One of the best ways to increase your levels is to get outside and in the sunshine. I know I always feel better when the sun is shining and the sky is blue.
Exercise is good for us for many, many reasons but it doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or an aerobics class. Head out for a walk and start getting active. Exercise releases endorphins which leads to happiness. It also has an affect on chemicals in the brain aiding how you react to stress. Being active increases your self esteem, helps you feel more in control and able to deal with whatever life throws at you.
Getting outside is great for practicing mindfulness. Being more aware of the present moment can help you enjoy the world around us and understand ourselves, our feelings and emotions better. While you’re out on a walk pay attention to the world around you. Think about what you can see, try and seek the beauty and colourful in everything. Even on a walk around your local neighbourhood you can spot some colourful flowers in the garden or white fluffy clouds in the beautiful blue sky. Think about what you can hear. Perhaps you will hear birds singing, children laughing or a cat purring? Think about what you can feel. Can you feel the sun on your skin, the wind on your face and the hard ground under your feet?
I love going for a walk with my partner after work. It’s our time to check in with each other, talk about our day and hold hands as we walk along. Grab a friend, your sister or cousin and head out for a walk and talk. Take your dog or borrow one and have some fun. Have a giggle when they chase after a ball. Know that you have given them some joy. Smile and say hello when someone passes you and wave to your neighbours. It feels really good when they say hello back and if you’re lucky their face will light up and they’ll smile and you’ll know that you’ve made a difference to someone else’s day.
6. Aids Sleep
Our mental health affects sleep in many ways. Sometimes you can’t sleep and wake up several times in the night. Going for a walk can tire you out and help you drift off. Being outside and in the sun can help to reset your circadian rhythm and kick start your body into its normal 24 hour pattern. Sometimes depression can make you sleep too much and you struggle to wake up in the morning. Heading out for a walk can give you more energy and help you to feel a little brighter when your alarm goes off.
If you’re feeling low, don’t reach for the ice cream, chocolate, wine or razor blade get outside and go for a walk. Pound the pavements and let the frustrations and negative feelings pass.
What do you think? Is walking good for your mental health?