Robin Spivey, MYPAS School Counsellor (Midlothian School Counselling Team) shares his thoughts on walking in nature and how this helps his health and wellbeing, especially on difficult days.
I started walking every day a few years ago when my first son was born as often it was the only way that he could settle to sleep. As we live next door to a huge park, within a few minutes I can be surrounded by wildlife. At first I would put on my headphones and use this as an opportunity to listen to audiobooks and podcasts.
However, I realised one day, as I was being indecisive about what to listen to, that actually what I needed was space. So I unplugged my headphones and put my phone away. I looked around me and felt a strange sense of stillness. I heard the sound of birds and of the wind rustling in the tress. I noticed smells and felt myself breathing in and out. I realised how I had been busily rushing around from one task to another, worrying about whether or not I was good enough, about how people perceived me, about how I was going to live up to all of my responsibilities. These anxieties had made feel that I needed to take in more information but I realised what I actually needed was to take a step back. I felt a warm fuzzy feeling and felt I was reconnecting to something; being present in the moment. I breathed in and out again…
…and then I felt the urge to look at my phone. There was a new story I was following. I wondered if there had been any updates in the past five minutes. I took my phone out of my pocket. Just to check very quickly. I refreshed the screen. There were no updates. ‘While I have my phone, why don’t I check Facebook?’ my brain quickly decided. I refreshed. No updates. I looked at myself. What was I doing?
I challenged myself to put my phone away for the whole walk. I am not sure I managed it for the first few walks but gradually I came to enjoy the stillness, to enjoy my own thoughts and to also spend time with those thoughts that made me uncomfortable. Now this is something I look forward to, especially if I am stressed or anxious. This is time I put aside each day to stop, slow down and be present; to get in touch with the things that are really worrying me and the things I need.
Check out the Mental Health Foundation’s top tips on connecting with nature: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/tips