At the beginning of the lockdown, I found that many people coped well. There was a surge of people taking a walk and exploring their local area, and discovering new footpaths that they had never walked before. As time goes on, and those warm summer evenings are becoming a thing of the past, then I am seeing people starting to retreat into their homes, closing the door on the world and entering a rather dark place in their mind.
From experience, I know that it is much easier said than done to haul yourself out of bed and dig out those walking boots to go for a walk. I have spent many mornings curled up, with no motivation to do anything and just wasting the day away. But, I know, deep down, that if I am feeling glum or worrying about something that I can't control, or perhaps have those dark feelings that I can't explain, then I always feel better after going for a walk.
In this blog, I wanted to share with you my tips on how I get motivated for a regular dose of the great outdoors, even when I am not really feeling like it.
#1 - Make an appointment!
If I have agreed to go walking with a friend, or perhaps booked a walk with a walking club (no sales pitch, I promise), then I am more likely to go.
It is much harder to cancel an appointment than it is to simply turn up. I don't like to let people down, so if I have made an appointment then I am more likely to go.
We all know that we never feel bad after a dose of fresh air, and good conversation with friends makes the world a better place. Making that first step of booking onto a walk, or calling a friend to meet up on a regular basis to go for a stroll is a great way to get myself motivated.
#2 - Get your clothes ready the night before
Have you read "The Chimp Paradox"? It's a great book as Prof Steve Peters explains how the brain works. He talks about how we end up fighting with our inner chimp. Your inner chimp is the other "you" that convinces you to eat that doughnut or to press the snooze button too many times. I have a name for my Inner Chimp. I call him "Fred" and I must admit, that nowadays I tend to win more battles with Fred than ever before!
Anyway, one of the ways that I motivate myself to go walking in the morning, rather than staying in bed, is to get myself prepared the night before. My clothes are put out on the chair, and my walking boots are near the front door. All I need to do is get dressed, quickly brush my teeth and I'm good to go. I can have a shower and a coffee when I get back. (That is my reward for doing a few miles to watch the sun come up).
#3 - Download a good book or Podcast
I feel that it is important to be in tune with your surroundings when on a walk. Listening to the birds, the wind in the trees, the sound of running water. But, let's be honest, sometimes we are not in the right frame of mind to be in-tune to nature. So, I tend to split my walk into sections. The first part of the walk is usually from my front door and through the housing estate. I plug in my Airpods Pro (great transparency mode so I can hear traffic) - and I listen to at least one chapter of a book. I usually have two books on the go, depending on my mood for the day.
The books I am currently reading/listening to are The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn and The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs.
I find that listening to a book for a while takes me into another world and distracts me from the actual exercise. Within 20 mins I am usually ready to switch off the book and enjoy my surroundings.
I look forward to going for my daily walks as I love a good book and getting lost in a story. It is a fantastic way to transition from sleep to feeling wide awake and ready for the day ahead. I have a rule that I only ever listen to an audiobook if I am walking, or in the car. That way, it is my special treat, and motivates me to get outside first thing.
When I am on the journey back home, and get to the point in the walk where I am once again in the housing estate, I plug in and listen to the latest podcast. I find that learning something new every day is hugely satisfying and podcasts is a way for me to do that.
A regular dose of awe works wonders for everybody's mental health, making you smile more and shift focus from your problems to the outside world. If you regularly shift your energy and attention outward instead of inward it can lead to significant improvements in emotional well-being. I can certainly feel the difference in my own mood and emotional well-being if I have stayed indoors for a few days. Even my hubby will say "blimey Julia, you need to go for a walk"!