In last week’s meeting online we discussed where we had been for walks during lockdown and what we had discovered or rediscovered and enjoyed during this time. Some had stayed quite close to home and in doing so discovered a great deal more about their locality than they had previously noticed. People had found new pathways, historical sites and places which brought peace and pleasure. Those who had ventured a little further had seen some more unusual wildlife, whilst others had become familiar with the birds which visited their garden. Wherever we had been it seemed that everyone had a bigger awareness of natural spaces and places of peacefulness.
Walking and getting out into nature are good for us in a myriad of ways. Physically walking increases heart rate, decreases blood pressure, boosts immunity, strengthens bones and aids sleep. Socially, walking allows us to have connection with our fellow human beings as we say hello, point to a beautiful sunset, comment on the wind or say hello to a waggy tailed dog. Group members commented that during lockdown people were more likely to say hello to each other on their daily walks, and hoped that this would be a feature that continues as restrictions are eased. Walking with another person facilitates open conversation and a mutual appreciation of the landscape and allows a physical rhythm of walking together. Walking is good for our mental health, it improves mood due to the release of endorphins.
If we are unable to physically go out walking, looking a picture of a calming natural scene reduces stress. Activities like looking at pictures, looking out of a window, going for a drive in nice scenery or virtual tours, sitting in a garden or growing flowers in a window box or feeding the birds are all beneficial.
Walking is also good for our brain health, as we walk and navigate we increase brain activity in different brain regions which helps us to problem solve and get creative.