The idea that spending time outdoors is one way to boost our mental health and wellbeing, is something that you know I am a big believer in. Getting outside and going for a walk, especially on a week day (such a commuting on foot), is an excellent way to not only break up the day, but to also do something positive to influence your mood.
Commuting on Foot
I have recently started commuting on foot. That’s right, I’ve joined the brigade of people who don trainers or boots with their smart work wear and march my way to the office in the morning. It’s just shy of three miles each way and, while it does make me puff and pant more than it should, it is such a nice way to commute. I am in the middle of a hugely busy and stressful time at the moment, and the simple act of putting one foot in front of each other for an hour at each end of the day has proved wonderful in helping me collect my thoughts, getting some exercise, and most importantly, allowing myself to breathe. I am reaping the mental health benefits of One Hour Outside (well, two…), and I cannot recommended it enough.
Ever fashionable. Dress and leggings, down jacket and hiking boots.
I am fortunate that after the first half a mile or so, my walk to work is on dedicated foot and cycle way away from the business of road traffic. While I can still hear the noise of other people’s commute, and catch glimpses of traffic lights and the resulting queueing cars through fences and over walls, I can walk safely in a nice environment. I might be walking alone, often with music playing in my ears to help me keep the pace up (and not be late!), but I am joined by many others on the path. There are teenagers chattering their way to school, dog walkers chucking balls and sticks, cyclists racing and others meandering their way to and from town, and plenty of other people walking with purpose. I’ve even started saying “morning” and “evening” to a couple of people I see walking in the opposite direction every day; walking to work certainly isn’t a lonely way to travel.
The best bit of my walk is that the last mile or so takes me through a rather lovely park, which feels like I’ve ended up in countryside in what is actually an urban environment. Each day I notice the season changing slightly, spot new flowers that have opened or patches of grass that have recovered from winter. I watch as dogs play, ducks swim, and there are two (domestic) bunnies that live in one of the aviaries who I like to visit at least once a day.
But why go to the effort of walking three miles each way to and from work, taking two hours out of my day, when I could save time and energy by driving my car or jumping on the bus? Well to me the reason is quite simple; that time outside is my time. In the morning the walk is my opportunity to wake up fully, get my heart pumping well and my lungs filled with fresh air. It means that I start the day with some exercise and arrive at work ready to go – after a cup of tea, of course. In the evening I use the time to switch off from the day job and let go of the pressures of work. I am finding that even the act of taking off my work shoes and lacing up my KEEN Terradora boots, my current commuting shoes of choice while the weather is still rather wintery, makes all the difference; a physical signifier that it is the end of the day. I arrive home an hour later relaxed and content, having had a bit of exercise and some fresh air that means I am ready for my dinner and a nice evening doing something productive – or just nothing.
I don’t walk every day. It’s just not convenient. But it’s more doable than you might think when you make it the norm. This week I’ve walked three days out of five, and last week before it was four, meaning commuting on foot alone has added 42 miles to my Walk 1000 Miles total in two weeks. Not bad huh?
But it’s not about the numbers. It’s not even about the exercise for me, although I’d much rather walk than go to the gym. It’s about how being outside and how walking makes me feel. Walking is one of the key things I need for my personal wellbeing. Happiness and contentment, relaxation and letting go; I get all of these from being outdoors. And that is why I do it.
Somewhere to stop and think.
I strongly believe that spending time outdoors is the thing that keeps me sane. Time outside, whether I’m walking or cycling or just sitting and admiring the view, allows me to breathe deeply, be mindful of my surroundings, and helps me remember where I am in this world.
I hope that reading this post has encouraged you to spend a little more time outside this week, maybe even by commuting on foot.
This post is inspired by the Winfields campaign, through which the outdoors gear store is trying to demonstrate how getting out into the great outdoors is one way to boost mental health and wellbeing, and a way of shedding the busy bee lifestyle. Sounds good to me!