Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy healing walks in nature, where you can connect with the beauty and tranquillity of the outdoors. Exposure to sunlight alone can positively impact your mood, emotions, and overall well-being.
Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including mood regulation. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of depression and other mood disorders.
Exposure to sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, often referred to as the “happy hormone.” Serotonin helps improve mood and promotes a sense of well-being.
Walking is also shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. The rhythmic movement, fresh air, and exposure to nature have a calming and restorative effect on the mind and body.
In addition, regular walking is associated with improved cognitive function, including enhanced memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.
Remember to be mindful during your healing walks. Pay attention to your senses, breathe deeply, and let go of distractions. Allow nature to nurture your mind, body, and spirit, and take the time to appreciate the healing power of the outdoors during the summer season.
That said, let’s take a look at how summer walks can help to improve your mental health.
Beach walks are beneficial for mental health due to a combination of factors that create a therapeutic environment.
Walking along the sandy shores of a beach, listening to the soothing sound of waves, and feeling the gentle sea breeze has a calming effect on the mind and body.
Being by the beach means exposure to fresh sea air and natural sunlight. Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation and a sense of well-being.
Walking barefoot on the sand also provides the grounding effect — popularised by Clinton Ober in his book ‘Earthing’. Studies show that earthing has a calming effect on the nervous system and promotes relaxation by reducing stress levels. It is believed that direct contact with the Earth’s surface may neutralise excess positively charged free radicals, which are associated with inflammation.
The Japanese have been engaging in Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing for centuries. It involves immersing yourself in a natural forest environment and mindfully engaging with nature through all five senses.
Spending time in nature, especially in lush green forests, can reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Here you can take a slow, meditative walk, breathe in the fresh air, absorb the natural scents, and allow the sights and sounds of nature to relax and heal you.
Because forest bathing encourages mindfulness and present-moment awareness. It allows individuals to fully engage with their surroundings and let go of distractions.
Phytoncides, the natural oils released by trees, have also been shown to boost the activity of natural killer cells in the immune system, leading to increased immune function and better overall health.
Take a leisurely walk during the golden hour when the sun is setting. Serene evenings offer a peaceful setting, coupled with the beauty of the changing colours in the sky, which can create a soothing and tranquil atmosphere.
Watching a sunset can evoke feelings of appreciation and gratitude for the beauty and wonders of the world. Practicing gratitude is linked to improved mental health and overall happiness.
Observing a sunset can create a safe space for emotional release and reflection, providing an opportunity to process thoughts and feelings. Sharing a sunset stroll with loved ones can strengthen relationships and provide a bonding experience.
But a sunset stroll can offer a quiet and contemplative time for self-reflection and introspection for those who enjoy solitude as well. The act of walking during a sunset stroll provides light physical activity, which can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood-enhancing chemicals.
Botanical Garden Walk
If you have the opportunity to explore a botanical garden in your area, take it. Being surrounded by vibrant flowers and the lush greenery of plant life can provide a sense of wonder and calm.
Botanical gardens are often designed with serene landscapes that provide a peaceful and tranquil environment that can reduce stress levels. Walking among a diverse range of plants and flowers fosters a sense of connection with nature, which has been shown to promote feelings of well-being and contentment.
A walk in a botanical garden engages all five senses, allowing you to see vibrant colours, smell fragrant flowers, hear the sounds of birds and water features, and feel the textures of plants, offering a sensory-rich experience that can enhance mood and relaxation.
The diversity and grandeur of the plant life in botanical gardens can evoke feelings of awe and wonder, promoting a positive outlook and a sense of appreciation for nature’s marvels. The artistic designs found in these gardens can stimulate creativity and inspire new ideas.
A riverside walk offers an opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life and find solace in the serenity of nature. The scenic beauty of a riverside walk, with the water reflecting the surroundings and the lush greenery, can be visually delightful and uplifting.
Whether taken alone or with others, a riverside walk can be a restorative experience that promotes mental well-being and a greater sense of peace and harmony.
Follow the banks of a gentle river or stream. The sound of flowing water and the tranquil surroundings can be incredibly soothing. Spending time in a tranquil riverside setting can provide a supportive environment for emotional healing and reflection.
Walking along a riverside involves physical activity, which can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood-enhancing chemicals. The paths along a river are also ideal for brisk walking which helps to improve your fitness and overall health by strengthening your immune system.
Research has shown that being near water is associated with positive emotions and a sense of peace. The sight and sound of water can have a therapeutic effect on the mind.
Rivers also encourage solitude and provide a space for self-reflection. Here you have a chance to connect with your inner world and explore your thoughts and emotions. This is one of the reasons why Mother Nature is a great healer — because she helps to bring you closer to your own nature.
Embarking on a moderate mountain hike to immerse yourself in stunning vistas and the peacefulness of higher altitudes can have several positive effects on mental health — particularly your self-esteem.
Mountain hiking involves overcoming challenges and obstacles, which can contribute to building resilience and coping skills. Therefore, reaching the summit or completing a challenging mountain hike can provide a sense of accomplishment and boost self-confidence.
The act of hiking requires focus and concentration, providing a mental break from everyday distractions and improving mental clarity. The physical exertion and solitude of a mountain hike can create a safe space for emotional release and reflection.
A mountain hike offers a break from the routines of daily life, allowing you to disconnect from technology and responsibilities. Hiking with others can strengthen social bonds and provide a shared experience that enhances connections with friends or family.
Furthermore, being in vast and open spaces can create a sense of freedom and liberation, lifting the spirit and reducing feelings of confinement. But it also encourages you to take in the awe and grandeur of the world which can spark a sense of power in your inner world.
A lakeside stroll offers a simple yet powerful way to connect with nature and nurture mental well-being. Whether taken alone or with others, a lakeside stroll can provide a sense of inner peace and rejuvenation, making it an excellent activity for promoting mental health and overall well-being.
Taking a walk around a serene lake or pond gives you the opportunity to enjoy the sky and surrounding nature reflecting in the water. The calming scenery of a lakeside setting, the gentle lapping of the water, and the feel of fresh air create a sensory-rich experience that can enhance mood. The serene atmosphere of a lakeside stroll can induce a sense of calmness and relaxation.
As we mentioned in the section on river walks above, being near water is associated with positive emotions and a sense of tranquillity. The sight and sound of water can have a therapeutic effect on the mind. Walking by the lakeside can provide a peaceful and contemplative space for solitude and self-reflection.
Nature Reserve Trek
Nature reserve treks offer a unique and enriching experience that can have several mental health benefits. Visiting a nature reserve or wildlife sanctuary gives you the opportunity to observe wildlife and engage with diverse ecosystems which can instil a sense of awe and wonder in the natural world.
When experiencing awe, the brain shifts focuses on the present moment and takes you away from stress and everyday concerns. This redirection of attention can reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, allowing you to let go of ruminative thoughts about the past or worries about the future, fostering a deeper connection with the present.
Nature Reserves can provide a fresh and broader perspective on life, reminding individuals of the vastness of the world and their place within it. This shift in perspective can reduce self-consciousness and promote a sense of interconnectedness and compassion toward others.
Trekking through a nature reserve involves overcoming challenges, such as varying terrain and weather conditions. This can contribute to building resilience and confidence. If you are joined by friends and family, nature treks are a great opportunity for social interaction and bonding.
Meditative Labyrinth Walk
The healing benefits of labyrinth walking can be individual and may vary from person to person. Whether practised in a traditional labyrinth or through a portable finger labyrinth, this meditative activity can be a valuable tool for self-discovery, healing, and personal growth.
Labyrinths are designed to be meditative. It can complement other mindfulness and contemplative practices, contributing to overall mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. As you follow the path, you naturally become fully engaged in the present experience, letting go of distracting thoughts that plague your mind on a daily basis.
The meditative nature of labyrinth walking provides a safe space for emotional release and processing. It can be a supportive practice for healing emotional wounds and finding inner peace.
Because labyrinth walking requires focus and attention to the path, this practice can enhance concentration and mental clarity — which is a requirement when using meditation for healing.
Think of the labyrinth’s winding path as a symbolic representation of life’s journey. Walking the labyrinth allows for introspection and contemplation, providing insights and new perspectives.
A labyrinth, like life, forces you to make a decision and go in a chosen direction. But it doesn’t matter if you come to a dead end. You can always go back and try another way. In the end, you always find your way.
Yoga literally means union. Whilst some yoga teachers believe this is the union of mind and body, which promotes a holistic approach to well-being, it can also be the union of the unconscious with the conscious mind. According to depth psychology, this is how you heal emotional wounds.
A yoga walk combines the benefits of physical activity, mindful movement, and nature connection to create a holistic and grounding experience, making it a valuable tool for managing stress, improving mood, and nurturing mental and emotional well-being.
During a yoga walk, participants are encouraged to be fully present in the moment, paying attention to their breath, body movements, and thoughts. This focus on the present can help reduce rumination and promote mental clarity.
Practising yoga while walking can help regulate emotions and promote a sense of emotional balance. The mindful and meditative aspects of yoga can enhance emotional awareness and management.
Yoga and walking can stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers. This can lead to an improved mood and increased feelings of well-being. The physical activity of yoga walking can improve cardiovascular health, which, in turn, can positively impact mental well-being.