Wellbeing Hikes

Wellbeing Hikes

“I would walk alone, in storm and tempest…to drink the visionary power”

Wordsworth is said to have walked over 175,000 miles composing his poetry “on the hoof”- he created much of his greatest work while hiking- the rhythm of his steps keeping time with the metre of his rhymes.

The need for wellbeing:
The saying goes- you can’t pour from an empty cup: personal resilience is not a given, regardless of how tenacious we believe we are, it needs to be looked after and from time to time topped up. There is a large body of research which demonstrates that resilience, when lost, can be hard to restore and the resulting emotional and physical damage can be extremely debilitating. Personal resilience is like a rechargeable battery- it can be topped up by simple strategies. Strategies which are most effective while we are feeling well and receptive to new learning rather than running the risk of leaving it too late and experiencing the biological equivalent of sulphation.

5 Ways to Wellbeing:
The seminal work of the New Economics Foundation found that our wellbeing is enhanced by the balance of five things: being active, giving to others, continuing to learn, taking notice of the present and connecting with others. Their evidence indicates that developing personal strategies which do all these things a little and often are the most effective ways of improving our resilience. They also have the advantage of being intuitive: using these five headings it is actually a very simple exercise for anyone to create their own wellbeing plan.

Wellbeing Hike:
What better way to give oneself space and time to do this than on a hike. No need for scary abseils, expensive equipment etc- just a pair of boots, waterproofs, a packed lunch and an open mind. Oh- and some glorious mountain landscape.

Going for a hike has its own intrinsic value- not only is it a form of exercise and a good way to clear the head it is also linked to the wider benefits of improving memory and attention and encouraging greater creativity. The rhythm of one’s boots striking the ground creates a feedback loop which steadies the mind and the cadence of our internal chatter. It can be done alone or in a group and as an added bonus the more introverted among us (like me) can flourish with the opportunity of side to side conversations rather than face on.
The walks will be in a wild place, suitable for all levels of fitness and can take part in all weathers (with the normal safeguards of decent foot ware and proper clothing). Adverse weather should be expected and will be part of the immersive experience. Prior to the hike participants will be introduced to the concept of the 5 ways and will do a quick and spontaneous personal plan. Then over the course of the day they will have the opportunity to reflect on this- alone, with others and with myself. It will be a hike and not a march- the distance is not important nor is the pace of the participants. It is about finding a location which is conducive to feeling immersed and will provide opportunity for safe time alone to explore or to sit quietly.

A typical location is Mosedale above the wonderful Wastwater: a flat bottomed glaciated valley surrounded by high mountains with gems like Ritson’s Force, the possibility of dippers in the beck, and the option of a high level hike up Black Sail Pass to Great Gable- one of our most iconic fells.
And of course there is the famous Wasdale Head Inn

Wherever we go I usually incorporate a quiet time- spent in a safe spot and on your own with no phone, no reading, no photograph taking etc- just on your own. Also if we have the time a short section of the walk will be off track and on rough, boggy and steep ground- unfamiliar terrain. This will be an opportunity for a “re-learning to walk” exercise. Walking is not something we think of as a skill but it is! Learning to move effectively and in balance on steep ground is similar to learning how to swim well. The metaphor of placing ones feet securely, standing tall, being positive etc has many resonances at work and in our personal lives.

At the end of the hike the participants will be invited to revisit their wellbeing plans and amend with their reflections from the day. This revised plan can be incorporated into a set of “I will” and “we will” commitments to be revisited at a later time.

Final words from Wordsworth:
I would walk alone,
In storm and tempest, or in star-light nights…
To breathe an elevated mood… and I would stand,
Beneath some rock, listening to sounds that are
The ghostly language of the ancient earth,
Or make their dim abode in distant winds.
Thence did I drink the visionary power.
The Prelude (l 321-30)

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