9 November, 2022
Once upon a time, not very long ago in fact, the idea of well being was confined to spa breaks, beach holidays and 'retail therapy'. We've had a wake up call in recent years, and part of that wake up is the realisation that nature provides many answers in our search for good health and a peaceful mind.
We have woken up to the fact that there is more to life than being an earner and spender, winner or loser, in a couple or single - outdated values and categories that have been shaping our modern lives for hundreds of years!
Who knew? Ten years ago, the notion of well-being and making the best of ourselves was associated with saunas, salad munching and beach-body ready holidays, with some dreaded treadmill pounding thrown in as self-punishment for the donut-chewing-biscuit-dunking-wine-glugging-screen-gazing sessions which propped us up through the endless dark, winter months. Thankfully we’ve finally started talking about well-being in a different light and realised that wellness is wholly dependent on the eco-system that is mind, body and soul.
Nature intended us to be in sync with ourselves, not ‘controlling’ or ‘battling’ our human condition like a foe. The notion of ‘self-love’ is mostly a bit alien to us westerners, in our gym-sweating-work-all-hours-to-be-successful culture. Added to that, the brushed metal object welded to our palm, if not as we speak, is certainly within arm’s reach, dictates our mood and is the very master of our dominant feelings and state of mind for the day.
Well, you will certainly find the foundations for peace of mind in the countryside and nature, even if gold itself is a little scarce, but you will begin to reconnect with your sorely neglected soul. Riches indeed. No wonder the Japanese founded the concept of Forest Bathing (shinrin-yoku) in the 1980s – a physiological and psychological exercise ethos which makes so much sense. The steadfastness of trees, the timelessness of the seasons and the perfection of nature, combine to soothe our senses, like a warm bubble bath comforts and supports a tired mind and body.
“I slept like a baby”. When was the last time you were able to make such a claim and woke up feeling rested, with a benevolent outlook on life and your fellow (wo)man? I can honestly say that I sleep better on days when I’ve been out in the hill for several hours, arriving back home feeling tired, but in a good way. Not exhausted and spent but satisfied that I’ve earned myself that can of cider, glass of wine, or whatever. The best part is that my poor brain has had a rest from ruminating and chewing over conundrums I can’t find answers for. In short, I achieve a little perspective on life’s ups and downs and get a lift to my spirits in the process.
So, why not join a walking group and you will be reminded how to laugh at the funny side of life, see things that you have never noticed before when travelling from A to B in a car, or lend a sympathetic ear to a fellow walker. We get time to put our daily woes in context and rediscover that people are funny, kind-hearted, equally unsure, putting on a brave face for the world half the time, and putting a best foot forward. We can forget ourselves for a while and put our fears and self-doubts to one side for a few hours.
The world looks a whole lot better, warts and all, after a day out in nature, where humans are just another species on the planet. Being in the great outdoors with others is a great equaliser too. We are all just humans in need of a little self-love.
SEE – what can you see? Try and spot five different colours of green. Hint: Look for evergreen trees, moss, grass, plants growing out of a brick wall.
TOUCH - four different things around you. Hint: Feel the roughness of the bark of a tree, pick up a leaf and feel its smoothness, sense the wind blowing on your face, find a round pebble on the beach.
LISTEN – can you hear three things? Hint: Can you hear any birds? Do you hear a distant plane in the sky? Or the wind? Perhaps the soft tapping sound of rain drops on leaves?
BREATHE - take two deep breaths – what can you smell? Hint: The sea air? Damp earth? Chips from a takeaway van?
TASTE- just one thing. Hint: Sip a cup of hot chocolate, savour the taste, focus on every mouthful. Or munch on a picnic sandwich. Does it taste even better when eaten outdoors in the fresh air?
Most recent articles by Andrea Harris
As the evenings draw in and the damp sharpness of the morning air announce autumn, rucksack contents for a day’s hiking need a rethink.
A feast for the eyes, food for the soul, take a breather in this golden treasure on the Herefordshire borderland. The views from the top of Garway Hill towards the Black Mountains and beyond are second to none.
Have you summited Pen Y Fan and now looking for the next challenge? Fan Fawr is an often overlooked, quiet gem of a mountain next to Pen Y Fan.
Most recent articles in HIKING
If you’ve never been on a multi-day hike, then a Highlander Adventure is a great place to start. Here are five ways to get trail-ready for your first long-distance trek.
I walk 9km every morning before 9 o'clock, which means in the Winter months the walks are pre-sunrise, so it is pretty much dark for at least 50% of the walking time.
Contributor, Nigel, started wearing Alpaca socks on my daily 9KM BY 9AM walks in February 2022 and found them to be a game changer.