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Walking For Wellbeing With The National Trust

Going on a walk can revive us. Whether we enjoy places like quiet woods or forests close to home, look out over a rugged headland towards the sea or stroll around our local park, spending time in nature can give us a sense of peace.

 

Walking keeps our bodies and minds healthy, giving us a breather from the stresses of daily life and the space to gather our thoughts. Being outdoors allows us to discover peaceful places, where we can take a moment to listen to the birds, feel the breeze on our face or watch the sun filtering through the trees. 

 

According to a survey from Natural England, 88% of people agree that spending time in nature makes them feel calm and relaxed, and 90% say they feel refreshed and revitalised*. Spending time in nature can actually reduce anxiety and depression, according to the nature and mental health report produced by mental health charity Mind**. It also states that being outside in natural light can lift a person's mood, which is more important now than ever as we all try to look after our mental health amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

 

In short, the wellbeing benefits of simply getting out for a walk are clear to see, so here are the National Trust’s tips on discovering the healing power of nature:

Revisit a favourite place

Do you have a childhood memory of a holiday that seems especially vivid? Or maybe just seeing a photograph of a place that you love is enough to make you smile? It turns out, this is a pretty common thing.

 

In 2017, the National Trust conducted research into the emotional impact of special places, and the lifelong connections we often form with them.***

 

The participants agreed strongly on three feelings about favourite places:

1.    A feeling of belonging

2.    Feeling physically and emotionally safe

3.    Being driven there by a strong internal pull

 

So, if you’re able to visit somewhere that’s special to you under the current government advice, spending some time in nature there will have a huge impact on your mood and wellbeing. And if not, who knows, now might be the time to explore your local area during your daily exercise and discover a new favourite place right on your doorstep. 

Take a mindful walk

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Mindfulness is the practice of rejecting everyday distractions in order to pay attention to the present moment. It can take some time to master, but is a skill you’ll never forget, and can reap the mental health benefits of long into the future. With this in mind, mindful walking simply means that rather than walking for exercise, you take the time to really focus on the natural world around you: from rays of sunlight catching leaves to birdsong echoing from above you. Here are some tips to get you started.

 

Pick a quieter time of day. There’ll probably be fewer people around if you go for a walk in the early morning or later in the evening, making it easier to follow social distancing rules as well as being a far more peaceful experience.

 

Try turning off your electronic devices. Digital detoxing and escaping those pesky notifications will help you to slow down and focus on your surroundings.

 

Use all of your senses. When did you last touch a tree trunk and feel the rough bark, or notice the way sunlight breaks through the clouds, or try to pick out all the different types of birdsong around you?

 

Pay attention to your breathing. This is a great way to relax and clear your mind, so you can focus on what’s around you. If you can find a quiet spot where you can distance from other people, try closing your eyes and taking ten slow, deep breaths in and out, then gently open your eyes and bring your awareness back to your surroundings, taking time to notice how much calmer your mind feels.

 

Exercise and being outdoors is great for both our physical and our mental health, particularly in these uncertain times. However, please make sure you’re always practicing social distancing and following government guidelines.

Sources:

 

* https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/monitor-of-engagement-with-the-natural-environment-headline-report-and-technical-reports-2018-to-2019

 

**https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/

 

***https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stories/why-do-places-mean-so-much