Sunday, 11 November 2012

Walking Back To Happiness (Whoopah oh yeah, yeah)

There may be trouble ahead
Ok, you lot huddle in close I need to tell you a secret ... no, come a little closer ... right, here goes. I had an ulterior motive when I started writing this blog. The truth is I had a serious amount of time away from work during the summer due to stress both at home and in my job. I ended up having the best part of six weeks off when you include some leave I had booked and, finding myself at a loose end, and being stuck in the house due to the awful weather I needed something to do. So, I started writing about the great outdoors as it gave me the perfect excuse to tell people to bugger off and leave me alone without being too rude and when the weather picked up a bit I would go out walking. Some of my earlier blogs (The Long Walk Home and Falling in Love with the Peak District) were written about walks I did around this time.

I have always known the benefits of walking when it comes to regulating a stressful life and it is amazing how the simple act of just putting one foot in front of the other can change your entire mindset (at least while you are doing it). I am never quite sure if its the walking itself, the fact you are usually somewhere away from the stress or a mixture of both that does the trick, but, it definitely works. Anyway as time passed things worked out, work calmed down a bit but I still carried on doing the blog. I had really got into this writing stuff and I was getting good feedback as well as it being picked up and used by an outdoors company on their website ( go and check them out). I even, occasionally, pop up in Country Walking magazine as a bit of a “talking head”. I know its only a little project of mine but it seems to have got a bit of a life of its own. I get people writing to me in reply to blogs I have posted and saying some very complimentary stuff. I even get others who say that they actively look out for it and if I haven’t written anything for a while I start getting badgered to get something done.
On a hill with Jo = relaxed and happy

So, what has prompted me to disclose all this now? Well, although things got better at work for a while the last couple of months its all been going downhill again. There is a restructure going on in my department and jobs have been at risk. I have had very little time to get out for a walk – a day in the lakes a couple of weeks ago to tick Lingmoor Fell off my Wainwright list – and very little time to sit and write my blog. Even when I have had time I’ve not really been in a frame of mind that is conducive to writing something coherent and structured (if my writing ever is), it would have been far more likely to come out as some rant about the unfairness of it all and an expression of worries about the future etc.

Our lowcal local (Werneth Low)

Then, today, I managed to get out for a while, just me and my smallest daughter, nowhere fancy just the local circuit from my front door, up the nearest hill and back. Three and a half miles on a chilly November Saturday within a few miles of Manchester city centre doesn’t sound that perfect however, there was walking’s old magic straightaway. The annoying cough I have had ever since I got over a recent cold went with the fresh air. My daughter’s questions about trees and birds and the view and a hundred and one other things gave me no time to dwell on work. The simple act of one foot in front of another, of dodging puddles and trying not to slip in the mud (Poppy managed to end up face down in it) made the world seem alright again. For the hour or so that we were out together I can honestly say that there is nowhere, not the Lakes or Anglesey or anywhere else I would rather have been. That little local circuit along the abandoned railway line, up a very modest hill, then back down through the outskirts of town and a bit of a scrubby woodland was perfect.

Its fairly obvious that I am a firm believer in the benefits of walking on mental health. However, its not just me; I read an interesting report by the charity Mind this evening called “Ecotherapy: The green agenda for mental health” (available from should you wish to have a look) the headlines from which are that after an outdoor walk:

  • 90% of people reported an increase in self-esteem
  • 71% of people experienced a decrease in the levels of depression
  • 71% people stated they felt less tense

The British Mental Heath Foundation found that regular walking gave benefits including:

  • less tension, stress and mental fatigue
  • a natural energy boost
  • improved sleep
  • a sense of achievement
  • focus in life and motivation
  • less anger or frustration
  • a healthy appetite
  • better social life
Uncertain prospects

Therefore, from what I already know to be true and the backing of two major mental health charities it seems I should be walking more. But, there is something else too. This recent restructure thing meant that Jo and I had to do some serious thinking about what would happen if the worst came to the worst and if it didn’t then could I really see myself doing my present job until the government decides I can retire? I think the answer is a definite “no”. I’m just not designed for office living, all that happens is that I spend a large amount of time looking out of the window at the hills waiting for the weekend. Whilst this is, in some respects, an escape and a way of dealing with the job its also not exactly helpful in that I spend nearly 40 hours a week wishing I was somewhere else. I really want to get my Walking Group Leader certificate and earn money doing something I love rather than have all this stress from a job that I really, actively dislike (love the people I work with though).

So, yes, a dream job outdoors please – if anybody has one going? Pretty please?

In the meantime I have also started toying with the idea of writing a book. Again, since I have been pottering around doing this blog people have been telling me they think I should write something longer. I usually dismiss these people as just being polite or over enthusiastic but, who knows, maybe they are right? So, I have a couple of ideas that are known only to my nearest and dearest that I am kind of mentally kicking around – they may come to nothing or they may come to fruition, only time will tell. Just don’t expect me to be the next Oscar Wilde or Alfred Wainwright

Its all about a work/life balance
If you are wondering what happened with the restructure I got a full time permanent post in the new role and a big dollop of guilt when a couple of my friends ended up out of a job – it was all pretty dreadful.

I think there are two morals to this particular piece. Firstly life shouldn’t be just about work and money and all the crap that we are told is important by people trying to sell us yet more crap. Life should be about me and Jo and the kids. It should be about laughing your head off with Poppy because she fell in the mud, not worrying about whether next door has a bigger TV. I remember once telling my assistant that the reason I come to work is to provide “pennies for walking”. Well, the truth is you don’t need that many pennies and I am perfectly free to choose how and where I collect those coins. Secondly, its a bit of a taboo subject mental health. Apparently it accounts for nearly half of all ill health suffered in this country and costs us around £77billion to try and treat. Maybe we should talk about it more, maybe we should be more open and discuss how we are feeling and maybe we should just occasionally say “so long” to the rat race and go for a walk.

Another excellent blog about the benefits of walking and mental health (not by me this time)can also be found at - 

There should be more of this going on


  1. so true about walking helping with a persons mental health (it helped with mine!)and I've also just completed two mental health related courses and these also stated that it helps. Happy walking! :)

  2. Fabulous blog about a subject very close to my heart. We dropped out of the ratrace and are now happy so long as we make enough to cover the mortgage and food. We all need a lot less *stuff* than we think we do. Love it.

  3. Great blog. Being outdoors and active is a great regulator.

  4. Saw this on Twitter and just wanted to say that's an excellent blog. I went through similar three years back and walking helped me massively. I did come through it in the end though I had to move on jobwise to do it. I'd still rather just be walking though.

    Good luck and keep strolling!

  5. I have been off work for a year as a result of poor mental health treatment from the NHS after I sought help having had some people be very nasty to me. I was told by an idiot who did not listen to a word I said that walking and cycling were bad for me as they would 'upset my serotonin levels' (she subsequently could not look me in the eye - mistake made)! I was prescribed drugs that made me lose all sense of balance so I could not cycle / walk which compounded my problem as I could not do what helped. I stopped the drugs. Two years ago I was cycling up to 100 miles in a day. I now have no self confidence, do very little and had to go through the wonderful ATOS system to claim £50 per week benefit (less than a tenth of what I can earn in part time work) which was cancelled after 3 months, then supposedly reinstated (I have never been paid though at one point I had two letters in a week, one saying I had no benefit and another saying my benefit has been increased). I get no sick pay so the benefit was slightly important... I should add that I have worked and paid my taxes for 20yrs(.It is cold and pouring down here but stuff it, I am going for a walk! Far better than any drug. Good luck to all those who have ever suffered from stress, depression or similar and very best wishes. Get walking!

  6. I normally try to repond to people who leave comments on my blog individually by way of saying thanks but I have to say that this blog really seems to have struck a chord with so many people I have been inundated! I passionaltely believe that walking is a great way to deal with the stresses we all have in life and that after a walk, no matter where or how long, I get a kind of resetting of my brain which immedately gets me feeling better. The results dont always last for long but even if you just get a bit of respite whilst you are out then its something.
    I really just want to say thank you to everyone who has read the blog and tweeted, left comments or emailed me directly.
    As for anonymous' comment above it sounds like you have been through hell and the evil that is ATOS may have to be dealt with in another blog.
    Keep strong everyone and if ever you need a stranger to chat to you know where I am.
    All the best, Col

    1. You know who I am as you have added me to your tweet list after Al forwarded your tweet.... then again know you are prob inundated so may not be able to pick me out! Just keep walking. Hope to see you out on the Lakeland Fells or here in North Yorks. Do blog about ATOS; I could provide you with plenty of info. (I refused to watch the paralympics as it was sponsored by ATOS). I had an insulting interview with someone who's english I could barely understand which led to me being told there was nothing wrong when I was seriously ill. I spent over a year challenging them. I had 2 appeal interviews cancelled - one with less than 2 hrs notice.

      Dad used to run with me(before I trashed my knee and had to resort to cycling )and tell me to sing a song in my head when it hurt going up hills. I've been doing a lot of singing recently. Fav this summer has been 'Put a Wet Suit On' by The Vaccines! It is great whilst getting soaked biking. Don't want to clog your inbox with too much but do keep up the blog, keep walking and get out on the hills anyone who is going through emotional trauma - thinking of you all. Best wishes Col and to your family. Get Poppy to try puddle jumping (favourite of my nephews) rather than falling in though!

    2. send me a tweet then I know who you are - you have me intrigued now :) Might need to pick your brains about the North York Moors, somewhere I havent done much yet

    3. Oooooh I like being anonymous - I am a fan of The Secret Footballer in The Guardian! Do get to the NY Moors - hopefully we will get the Tour de France in 2014. Go to Rosedale and try Chimney Bank - it is hard enough to walk up never mind cycle but fab views. My fav place is Bransdale - most remote place on the moors and lovely ancient church famous for fantastic snowdrops. (If you wonder who I am you will find my name in the visitors book there most February's for years). Try walking there from Clay Bank. Brill walk. Farndale with the daffs - ace walks from Blakey and pub at start and finish - or the bluebells at Roseberry Topping are annual rituals too. Might try to send you an email with my name but shy about twittering it! I recommend a book called 'On Foot In The North Yorkshire Moors'. Happy walking : )

  7. PS Need a walk though think it will be a bike ride - sun coming out... annoyed that cannot edit last msg to put the apostrophe on visitors' rather than Februarys! Must get a life!! : )

    1. Thanks for all the tips - I shall be up there at some point in the near future. Roseberry Topping is on my hills hitlist. (and there is nothing wrong with being a grammar pedant)

  8. Fantastic blog!!