How walking in nature affects your brain

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There’s no doubt about it, sometimes you just don’t feel in a good mood. Even the happiest of people have times when life gets on top of them, things get you down, and quite frankly you just want to curl up in bed and hibernate. How do you get out of those moods? I used to get like this more often than I wanted, but not now. Have you considered going for a walk?

When you go for a walk outside in nature your mind can start to relax, you de-stress, and after a while you start to see the beauty all around you. Your mind can get to a state of relaxation where you appreciate your surroundings, and enter an almost meditative state. Walking will also release stress-busting endorphins into your bloodstream, and get your heart pumping. Invite along a friend and you can instantly re-connect and air your worries – a problem shared is a problem halved.

When stress builds up

You may be dealing with some difficult issues in life – maybe you are going through a divorce, having a really stressful job, or are having some financial worries. Whatever your reason, continually worrying on a regular basis can lead to long term health issues.

Your mind may be racing constantly, and worrying about whatever is your particular problem. But you need a way to relieve that stress, before the constant fretting causes a detrimental effect on your health. One great way to alleviate that stress is to go walking outside in the fresh air.

My job isn’t the easiest, although not the most stressful, but I deal with business customers who have their own priorities, sometimes handed from their much larger customers. So yes, at times pretty much every day, it does get a bit much.

The effect of walking on your brain

Walking in nature, maybe through your local park or around your favourite lake, can
help to put your brain into a meditative state. You may enter a state of “involuntary attention,” where your brain is able to hold attention, but also allows for reflection at the same time.

As you walk you will start to appreciate your surroundings – the wind gently rustling the leaves on the trees, the sound of birds chirping to each other, the sound of waves on the lake gently lapping at the sides. As you notice more and more of what nature is showing you, your mind will forget what put you in a bad mood, and you will start to feel much calmer.

Whilst I like to get further afield to venture into parts of the Kent countryside that I haven’t been to before, my own go to place is a lake that is about a mile walk from my front door. And even better, it’s a mile through the fields of the sportsground, alongside a river. And then about three quarters of a mile around the lake, so a nice walk all round. My calm down walk.

Walking during work lunchtimes

Getting outside to walk is a fantastic way to reduce stress, one I highly recommend. Even in cold weather, taking a walk can improve your memory and attention span. This is why I always aim to get out of the office during my lunch hour for at least 20-30 minutes – it helps me to forget what has gone on in the morning and to tackle the afternoon’s challenges with vigour.

You may argue that working through your lunch break will help get a heavy workload done, but I find that I soon start to wilt in the afternoon, and thus become less efficient anyway. By getting outside I can park my morning problems, enjoy my surroundings and the fresh air, and come back revitalised and ready to throw myself back into work.

Working in an office near the High Street of a large town doesn’t always give you great nature, but as often as possible I try to turn left out of the office and head in the opposite direction. Walking through the local estate there’s a few small patches of field between houses, or if I am out early enough then I head down to the local park at the bottom of the High Street where there’s a great pond area with Canada geese.

How often should I walk outside to relieve stress

I guess this depends on how much stress is in your life – but personally I think if you can get out 3 times a week for at least half an hour, you will feel the calming benefit that it brings.

Of course, if you can get out every day to a park or by a river, then do so. Make it become a habit – how about getting up half an hour earlier if you have somewhere on your doorstep? I live next to my local sportsground, but as I am up at 6.00 for work I do struggle to rise any earlier to fit in a walk, especially in the winter when it is pitch black outside. But now that it is getting lighter I am hoping to change my ways. It will be great to see all those early morning dog walkers and joggers, and be able to nod and say hi, knowing that we are making the most of our lives.

7 mental health benefits to walking outside

For many of us, spending time outside is a great way to relax and de-stress. But did you know that there are actually some significant mental health benefits to be gained from spending time in nature? Here are seven ways that getting away from it all and spending time in the great outdoors can improve your mental wellbeing:

  1. Walking in nature can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels.
  2. Being in nature can help to boost your mood and increase feelings of happiness.
  3. Spending time outside can help to increase your energy levels and improve your overall sense of wellbeing.
  4. Walking in nature can help you to clear your mind, giving you a chance to focus on the present moment.
  5. Being in nature can help to reduce negative thinking and increase positive thinking patterns.
  6. Spending time outside can increase your level of physical activity, which has numerous health benefits.
  7. Getting away from technology and being in nature can help you to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, giving you some much-needed peace and quiet.

Walking with friends

Maybe you have realised that walking in nature had helped you with any worries that you had. Maybe you know of someone who would also benefit from this. Don’t keep your secret to yourself. Give them a call and suggest meeting up for a walk in the country.

You don’t have to tell them that you are worried about them, just that you fancy meeting up and that rather than go for a coffee, you want to go for a walk. Chances are that even if they don’t walk now, they would think to themselves that it sounds like a good idea. Especially if you make it somewhere beautiful – perhaps a short drive into the country for a stroll with fantastic views?

You don’t have to trek for miles, but if you can get 30 minutes walking under your belt, I bet your friend will feel great, and suggest doing it again soon. Perhaps it will become a weekly thing, meeting every Saturday for time where you can both just chat and walk, whilst enjoying the benefits of fresh air and the beautiful scenery that nature offers us constantly.

You may even find that word gets around in your peer group, and soon you could be joined by another friend, or more. What could be better than a group of friends meeting each week to relax, catch up, support each other and laugh with each other.

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

John Burroughs

How about Walking Therapy?

A friend was talking about walking therapy the other day, as they’d read about it in a magazine. It sounded good, but just what is Walking Therapy?

Walking Therapy is a combination of walking and talking to a counselor or therapist. This type of therapy happens outside in nature. Walking outside can help you feel less tense and more comfortable. Talking outside helps you connect with nature again. Research has shown that this kind of therapy is very helpful in reducing stress levels significantly.

If you are based near London, you may want to check out Walking Therapist Jonathan Hoban’s website. You can also see him in discussion with Julia Bradbury below:


Walking is one of the simplest and most accessible forms of exercise, and it comes with a host of mental health benefits. When you walk, your body releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.

Walking can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, and it can be a form of meditative practice. In addition, being in nature has been shown to boost overall well-being and increase self-esteem. Walking outside allows you to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and escape technology.

It’s an opportunity to connect with the natural world and appreciate the simple things in life. Walking in nature can also help you to feel more grounded, present, and aware.

I hope you have been inspired by these words to look at those moments when you are upset; the times when you feel that life is getting too hard; or that you just need to escape what is happening around you; and remember that a walk in nature can be just the tonic you need to get yourself back on track. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, go for a walk outside. You just might find that it does wonders for your mental health.

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