May is National Walking Month, an annual celebration of walking that’s led by the charity Living Streets.

So what’s that got to do with mental health? Well, walking, like other physical activities, releases endorphins which improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety, and it’s been proven that active people have a reduced risk of suffering clinical depression. Nicola, who works in our Central Office, told us a bit more about how walking helps maintain her mental health.

“I grew up in the countryside and have lots of good memories associated with being outdoors, so the simplest things like the smell of freshly cut grass or blossom on trees really lift my spirits. Although I live in a city now, I’m lucky enough to be by a beautiful park, so I often go for a stroll there when I need a pick-me-up. I’m not the only one – spending time outdoors has been shown to have a very positive effect on people’s mood!

I really dislike team sports or working out in a gym, so for me walking is a great way to get active regularly. Not only is it good for my physically, it’s really important for my mental wellbeing too. My partner and family are keen hillwalkers, so often on weekends we head to Northumberland or the Lake District to ‘blow away the cobwebs’ and properly stretch our legs!

Not only is it good exercise, but it’s an opportunity to get away from things and have a good long chat with my loved ones, about whatever is bothering us. It’s true that talking can really help if someone is struggling with their mental health, and I find a walk is often a really good opportunity to do that.

I also go for a walk on my lunch break most days at work, even just for ten minutes. It’s a really important bit of time where I can take a breather from whatever I’m doing, with space to think or listen to a podcast, enjoy what’s around me, and clear my head. My little walk really helps me to combat any stress, anxiety or frustration I’m feeling.

As it’s National Walking Month, I’ve set myself a challenge to walk 10,000 steps a day in May (harder than it sounds when you work at a desk all week) – wish me luck!!”