AS LIFE RETURNS to near-normality, walking has slipped back into being an activity only undertaken when the luxury of time is on our sides. Yet an article by Sir Richard Thompson in the Royal College of Physicians Journal of Clinical Medicine highlighted increasing evidence that plants and green spaces benefits mental and physical health. A study in Japan took electrocardiogram measurements (to assess the heart’s electrical activity) and found that levels were lower when subjects looked at plants. They improve mood, reduce pulse rate, muscle tension and blood pressure.
Walking – in parks, through woods or countryside, along a river-banks or beach – is an elixir for better wellbeing. It is the ultimate stress-buster; distracting you from the mundane; a form of moving meditation and ultimately relaxation. A walking friend said to me: “You know, you can walk fear into the ground”, and most people who walk would agree that they are in a completely different mood at the end of a walk than they were when they set out.
Similarly, spending time in a garden: whether methodically turning over a vegetable plot, mowing a lawn, or simply observing each individual plant, flower and insect; transports the mind to a more peaceful place, where you can feel in touch with nature, and with your true self.
Wherever you are, as you step outdoors, you can feel, hear and sense your environment and almost instinctively sense the mood of the weather. Take time to savour the feel of the air – is it heavy and damp as if blown straight off the Atlantic Ocean, or dry and warm, with a touch of the Med to it. Embrace it; whether rain laden, bitterly cold, or positively tropical – know that when you return to your cosy home, you will feel a little more genuine for embracing elements you cannot control.