09th May 2022
Walking to help mental health
May is National Walking Month and Living Streets are calling people to ‘Walk This May’ and get out walking for 20 minutes a day throughout the month of May.
From 9 – 15 May it is also Mental Health Awareness Week. Walking helps keep our bodies and minds healthy, giving us breathing space from the stresses of daily life and time to gather our thoughts. Spending time in nature has also been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
We chatted with Charlotte Burton, one of our This Girl Can Sussex Champions and Women & Girls Development Officer at Sussex Cricket, about how walking regularly has been instrumental in helping manage and improve her anxiety and depression.
Have you always been interested in walking? If not, what was it that inspired you to start?
I was never that interested in walking when I was younger or even in my twenties. It was only when I moved closer to the beach and was going through a bad time with my anxiety and depression ten years ago that I found walking on the beach really helped with my mental health. I found that being in my head at home was making me more anxious, so one day I decided to go for a walk on the beach and found it really helped me and is something I do pretty much every day now. I will put on my headphones and either listen to some music or a podcast and go for a walk.
How has walking and getting active outside helped your mental health?
Going out for a walk and getting active has helped me more than anything with my mental health. Being someone who suffers with depression, anxiety and overthinking I find that if I go for a walk it actually clears my head and I feel a lot calmer and in a better place within myself.
I find it is the best way to start a day as I feel energised and ready to take on the day and also at the end of the day going for a walk after work if I can, I find it a great way to reflect on the day and to take any worries away.
I also faced my biggest challenge physically and mentally three years ago when I did a two-day trek in the hills of Pindaya in Myanmar. I never thought I would be able to do anything like that, but it taught me that if you put your mind to something, challenge yourself and put yourself out of your comfort zone, you can achieve most things and it did wonders for my mental health being outside walking and seeing this amazing country.
Where are your favourite places to walk in Sussex?
I love to walk on the beach, especially Shoreham beach, I call it my happy place! I am lucky that I can literally walk out of my flat and I’m walking by the river and then two minutes later I am on the beach. I love being by the water and just spending my morning or evenings seeing the sun rise or set while out on my walk makes me feel so much better.
I also love walking on the South Downs and I am lucky that one of my brothers likes to go on long walks and he is always finding places in Sussex for us to go and spend about five or six hours out walking in the countryside.
How can people incorporate more walking into their lives? Have you got any tips for motivating others?
Its all about making time to go for a walk. I know if I have a busy day, I may have to get up earlier to get a walk in or find time when I have finished work to make sure I do. You don’t have to start off with going for a long walk – even just thirty minutes and then build it up each week. Going with a family member or a friend also helps because you can walk and talk or if you want to go out on your own, put some headphones on listen to your favourite music, a podcast or an audio book.
There are days when I am having a bad day mentally and I don’t even want to get out of bed, but I know that if I go out for a walk it does really help. During lockdown and still to this day I have a specific walking route along the river and beach I do, so I know that if I am having a bad day and it might be a challenge to mentally go for a walk, knowing I have that walking route, I don’t have to think too much and I can just get out and do it, which does help me in the long term to feel better.
Find out more about Living Streets National Walking Month campaign, ‘Walk This May’.