Mother nature keeps on offering us endless possibilities for healing and nurturing the body and mind. One of the best relaxation technique offered by Gaia is walking in nature. It offers everything you need to see and hear to calm and relax: birds, flowers, trees, wonderful and soothing sounds. There are no cars passing by, no angry people, no pollution inside a forest or a natural reserve. Everything is motionless, no-one is rushing to get someplace, everything seems interconnected, in line and at peace with everything around them. In this article, I will explore the causes of why people spend less time in nature, the benefits of strengthening the habit of walking in a park or forest and how to start. I will also offer some tips on how to start doing this more often, items to bring with you, possibilities to explore, frequent mistakes and how to prevent them. Last but not least, I have listed a few recommendations of the most beautiful places to walk in the UK, Europe, USA and in the World. OK, now lets jump in:
Why people spend less time in nature
The problem is that we spend way to much time at work, we then get home tired and the only thing we want to do is to lie on the couch and watch our favourite TV Show. When the weekend comes, we want to do as many things as possible and we cram as much as we can in these two days that are supposed to be there for relaxation. Most of us believe that spending half a day in a park is boring and all these hours can be used instead to visit various places like pubs, shops, shopping centres or museums that we don’t really like.
Another problem that I have noticed is that due to the fact that we spend at least 8 hours a day at work mostly sitting in a chair, another 1-2 hour stuck in traffic, we have therefore lost the ability to walk medium to long distances. We get tired rather quickly, we use our car even for the smallest chores like buying bread from the town shop located only 10 minutes walking distance from our home. We don’t perceive walking as something “cool” and, therefore, don’t pay too much attention to this once enjoyable action.
As the time spent indoor increases, we have slowly started to lose the connection we had with mother nature. My grandparents used to know most of the flowers, mushrooms, plants and trees that grow inside a forest. I would have never questioned them if they picked fruits or seeds from a bush or tree and gave them to me to eat.
We do not appreciate the beautify of nature and what it can offer us in its true sense. Yes, we love taking pictures of all the outstanding places we visit, but when was the last time you stopped to absorb the views, to take it all in and to feel its energy and observer how alive everything is.
What are the benefits of walking
One of the benefits of walking in nature is the calming effects it has on the mind. This happens as you are away from all the craziness of big cities, away from a large amount of traffic, angry drivers and in general away from all the frustration.
Also, being in nature reduces the tremendous amount of information our brain perceives when we are in a middle of a city like London for example. You have a myriad of people running everywhere, demanding different things and speaking various languages. Everyone is in a rush going from place to place. If we could observe a busy town centre from above this will be rather similar to a colony of ants.
The less polluted air, the calming sounds of bird chirps, the wind blowing through trees and leaves, the sound of the river flowing and touching the rocks. All these together calm the body and mind and have the same effect but on a bigger scale as we experience when we play nature sounds on our devices and use them for meditation or to help us sleep at night.
We can also discover new hobbies when we are more connected and exploring the nature that surrounds us. We can start practising wood carving, photography, birdwatching, wildlife observation or rock collecting. We can find a multitude of possibilities and at the same time relax our body and mind.
People can re-energise by spending time alone in a quiet park or forest. Being alone for periods of time is almost as necessary as food and water. We need to be alone with our thoughts, we need this “me-time” in order to get to know ourselves better.
Walking also helps to relieve stress as it boosts endorphins, the feel-good hormones that improve your mood and lower stress.
How to start – tips and hints
- How to check for best parks, country walks and natural reservations
If you want to start walking more in nature but don’t quite know where to start, I would suggest starting by taking a walk in the park located nearest to your home. Even if the park might be small, you can do a few rounds, discover the park better, read a book on a bench, look at kids playing or simply observer the dogs running around fetching sticks and enjoying the freedom. You can then later look online on Goole Maps, TripAdvisor or simply search on Google using keywords like parks, country walks, natural reservations for further inspiration and places to visit.
- How to get there
Once you made your decision, you have a few possibilities to get there. If you love cycling I would recommend riding your bicycle to the park as any physical exercise benefits the body and mind. If you do not have a bicycle, or there is no possibility to get there this way, most of the parks offer car parking facilities (check for parking fees and closing hours). You can also probably get to the location by using public transport like a bus or train. Usually, all these places have a website of their own and offer plenty of information for visitors.
- Check if you can cycle before leaving your house
If you love cycling, I would advise checking if this is allowed as in some places cycling is not permitted.
- Check for walking trails, cycling trails, walking tours
You can additionally check before you make your choice if the location you will be visiting has dedicated walking trails, cycling trails or even walking tours. This way you can explore nature in your preferred way and at the same time learn a few things about the place and its history.
- Check for attractions
Some places might have attractions available like castles, manor houses, ruins venues and even crazy golf. Check these out in advance and see if you can convince a greater group of people to join.
- Clothes to wear and walking gear
Mistakes you need to avoid
Avoid walking in your best shoes, high heels, your favourite pair of jeans or any other piece of clothing that is prone to stains. We need to understand that we can expect at any time mud, puddles, wet leaves and places that simply can’t be avoided and where you will get a bit dirty. That’s why kids love playing in nature and so should we as adults. Spending time with your inner child is extremely beneficial to your mind.
Do not rely on buying water or food once you get to your destination. Depending on where you decide to travel, you will have to be prepared in advance and carry some water and food with you (sandwiches, snacks, sweets). You might find some locations where you could eat cold or warm food and have a hot beverage, but not everywhere. Just to be sure, always carry some food and water with you.
Do not expect to be fresh after a long walk. Depending on which trail you choose, or the location you are visiting, your legs might get tired at the end. Do not get upset and tell yourself that you will never do this again. Most things are difficult at the beginning, but keep in mind that the more you do it the better you become at it and also remember all the benefits you will gain for your body and mind. Consider this as a gym located in the nature that is training not only the muscles but also your mind.
Not carrying some emergency first aid items. There is always a possibility of getting a scratch, walking blisters, or any other injury. I would advise to always have with you a blister plaster, some antiseptic wipes, a microporous tape and some safety pins to assist you in case of a minor injury. If unsure, you could find some small first aid kits for walking that are under £10.00 and that will end up being very useful when going on long walks in nature.
Below, you can find links to websites that have put together lists of the most beautiful walks in the UK, Europe, America and in the World:
I hope this article will encourage you to incorporate nature more in your life as the benefits are far greater than spending your free time in busy town centres and doing activities that you aren’t really enjoying.
Take care of your body and mind. All the parks and nearby forests are waiting for you to explore them.