It’s mental health awareness week this week, so I thought it’d be appropriate to write a blog about mental health and the benefits of Nordic walking.
First, it’s important to say that we all have mental health. It’s the umbrella term covering our emotional and psychological wellbeing and it can shift, both ways, at any point in our lives. Having good mental health today is not a guarantee of good mental health tomorrow. It will only stay that way if we nurture it. Equally, poor mental health today is not something you have to accept for the rest of your life. You can improve your mental health at any point in your life and from any point along what health professionals call ‘the mental health continuum’.
Research has shown that there are five key actions (Five Ways to Wellbeing) influencing both well-being and ill-being. These have been adopted widely including by the mental health charity Mind and the NHS. They are:
- Connect. Connecting with others can help us feel close to people, and valued for who we are.
- Get active. Being active can help us sleep better, boost our mood, and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and racing thoughts. It can also help us look better and feel physically stronger and more able.
- Take notice. Paying attention to the present moment – our thoughts and feelings, our bodies, and the world around us – can improve our mental wellbeing. There’s additional research showing that taking notice of the natural world around us significantly boosts our mental health.
- Learn. Learning and developing can help build confidence, raise self-esteem, and give us a sense of purpose.
- Give. Acts of giving and kindness can create positive feelings and a sense of self-worth. It also helps us connect with other people and to have a sense of purpose.
All of these contribute to mental wellbeing. They are also all actions which Nordic walking can facilitate. In a nation-wide Nordic walking and mental wellbeing survey I conducted in 2021 with over 130 Nordic walkers, 93% of respondents said that Nordic walking had had a positive effect on their mental wellbeing, 95% said that it had improved their mood, and over 80% said it had reduced their stress levels.
Whether learning or improving the technique, walking with others in nature or sharing a tea or coffee afterwards, Nordic walking can provide easy, enjoyable access to all five ways to wellbeing, all at once.
Five Ways to Wellbeing https://neweconomics.org/2008/10/five-ways-to-wellbeing, https://www.health-in-mind.org.uk/resources/5-ways-to-wellbeing
Mental Wellbeing and Nordic walking: Survey Findings by Vicky Welsh