I don’t know about you, but my mood is often influenced by the state of the weather and none more so than during January and February. It was bright and sunny this morning and I’ve had a spring in my step, standing outside to enjoy my morning cuppa and soak up those precious golden rays. On a gloomy grey day, my mood feels correspondingly flatter and it takes more energy and willpower to get that ‘get up and go’ that comes naturally when the sun shines.
If this resonates with you, there is something very simple that you can do to help yourself – and that is to get outside and walk, preferably in a green space that gives you a sense of nature. Don’t be put off by what you see out of your window – it’s rarely as bad once you’re out and about in it. There’s something energising about experiencing the twists and turns of the weather (good and bad) and being connected to what’s going on in the natural environment around us. Walking on a cold, wet day gives you a sense of achievement and makes walking on a beautiful day all the more glorious and special.
Science backs getting outside, both for our mental and physical wellbeing.
- Being around plants and trees boosts your body’s immune system. This is even more pronounced in woodland, hence the rising popularity of forest bathing.
- Being in nature lowers your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of cortisol, leaving you calmer and less stressed.
- Observing the fractal (geometrically repeating) patterns in things like clouds, trees and leaves is a stress-reliever. Some research* says it can lower your stress levels by up to 60%.
- Natural daylight helps boost your immune system and re-balance your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal body clock). It also encourages your brain to produce the chemicals serotonin and melatonin. All of which help improve sleep, mood, appetite and digestion. (Did you know that Florence Nightingale recommended fresh air and sunlight in hospital wards to disinfect them as well as to help patients’ mood and recovery?).
- Even on a grey day you will benefit from going outdoors. There’s an astonishing difference in lux (the measure of light intensity) between being indoors and outdoors. Linda Geddes in her excellent book Chasing the Sun says it’s at least ten times brighter – she quotes 200 inside compared with 2,000 outside.
If you need some inspiration to get outdoors, we’re big fans of the free Go Jauntly walking app. There’s masses of walks in the Bristol area, all easy to follow. Plus they’ve just launched their Nature Notes feature so that you can create a journal of the good things you see in nature.
Other ways to motivate you to go out and get walking are virtual walking challenges. You’re almost spoilt for choice, but Walk 1000 miles is one of the best with a vibrant Facebook community and excellent support. We also love the World Walking virtual challenge and see that Go Jauntly has a ‘walk 2022km’ challenge too.
Finally, have you thought about joining a local walking group? Stepping out with others is fun and creates a community feel. Walking lends itself to talking and it’s so much easier sharing thoughts and problems striding side by side.