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Walking in nature for mental health: A personal story

By May 31, 2022June 22nd, 2022news & updates
trundl walking app | charity for mental health

Is it in my genes?

The other day I was looking through some of my photo albums (remember them?) and came across one I put together following my first trip to Poland in May 1992. My late parents were both Polish and came to Britain post WWII, which is where they met. Mum was 8 when she and her family were deported to Siberia in 1940 and she hadn’t been back to Poland since that time, so this trip was my 60th birthday present to her. She encouraged me to keep a travel diary during our stay, which I then transposed into the album. But this particular entry stood out to me when I reread it:

‘I saw chickens round the farmhouses, cows grazing by the side of the road, a horse drawn cart full of straw with three little children balanced on top and a baby deer frolicking in the fields. Every so often the farmland would give way to dark majestic forests and I felt that here was the country of my grandparents; farmers and foresters.’

When Covid hit back at the start of 2020 and we went into the first of many lockdowns, I was completely gripped by panic and anxiety. I’m single, but had a really good social life and a wide circle of friends. Overnight that all had to stop, as it did for everyone. So, I felt incredibly isolated and was absolutely terrified of leaving the house in case I caught covid. After a couple of weeks one of my cousins phoned me and she encouraged me to get out to at least take a walk every day. I live on the outskirts of Brighton and am very close to The South Downs. To my shame, despite having lived there for over 19 years at that point, I hadn’t realised that there was an entry point to The Downs further along my road and that I could be walking on them within 10 minutes of leaving my front door.

Well, that was it, I had found my happy place. You may remember we were incredibly lucky with the weather during that first lockdown, so I would get out most days. Every time I ventured a little further and the impact on my mental health was immediate and incredible. I would pass a couple of farms en route and would see changes in the landscape on each walk, as crops were growing, lambs and calves were appearing in the fields and nature in general was bursting out of the earth. This notion that no matter what was happening in the world, Mother Nature was carrying on, brought me great comfort. I felt an affinity with my surroundings that surprised me. As I started to venture further afield, I found areas of woodland to roam through and, again, felt a love of the landscape and the peace it brought me.

I remember a conversation with my best friend a few years ago, following a trip to Scotland, where her mother hails from and where she spent part of her childhood. This is her happy place because she loves the mountains and lakes. Whilst I absolutely appreciate the beauty of the Scottish landscape, I don’t have the same response to it as she does. But I have found my version, so I do wonder whether it is somehow due to my being descended from farmers and foresters. Who knows? But what I do know is that being out in nature is healing. Seeing the changing landscape and breathing in the fresh air is soothing. If I wake up feeling despondent, the hardest thing is still taking that first step. I tell myself that I’ll just go for a quick walk round the block but as soon as I set out, I find my mood lifting and I invariably end up walking much further.

So, carry on trundling and think about where your happy place is.

Helena, Founder trundlr.  (Left in the picture above,  taken at Woods Mill, Sussex Wildlife Trust April 2022)