Hill Walking & Mental Health by Andrew Laverick (Castycam)
As I travel along life’s journey into middle age I find myself complaining a lot that things aren’t as good as they used to be and people aren’t as kind and that
I’m generally not all that impressed with the 21st Century. I’m actually starting to sound a lot like Grandpa Simpson, but modern life just seems to put so much more pressure on everyone, and for all the advances in technology and health care we are under so much pressure just to make ends meet that it is running us into the ground. And that’s before we get stressed that our lives are dull and boring compared to everyone else’s awesome adventurous News Feed on Facebook. When you’re a kid you think everyone is sorted except you and it seems so unfair. One good thing about growing older is the wisdom that comes with it and realising that everyone is messed up to a degree, some are just better at hiding it than others.
Technology has brought so many new stresses and anxiety’s into our lives that our quickly evolving brains have never had to deal with before, it really can leave us feeling useless and worthless. I am so grateful that I live in rural Cumbria where we do have a great quality of life. I wouldn’t cope well living in a city with artificial horizons all around me and millions of people all busy wrapped up in their own worlds. Honestly that is my idea of Hell.
So what’s the best medicine for modern life, stresses and technology? It has to be hill walking. Getting out into the open with nothing around you but natural beauty. I love having a big day out in the fells. Spending as much time being absorbed in nature and stopping to look around me. I’ll sit for half an hour studying the moss and grass I’m walking over looking for unusual flowers and bugs then another half hour just looking around me. Wild Camping gives me a really good opportunity to just stop and sit. I’ll try and figure out which mountains are which, what sort of trees I’m looking at and if I get a starry night I’ll just keep looking up and watch all the shooting stars and get lost in the Milky Way.
All year we talk to people in the shop about how good it feels to get out and have a day on the hills. Folk come in after a day’s hill walking with a big smile
n their face and you can tell they are buzzing. They get all excited telling us where they have been and what they have seen. I get the same feeling from a big day out on the hills that I do after a holiday. I feel I have been away from the daily grind and I have visited somewhere beautiful and different. Nowhere
does this more for me than going up the Zig Zags at the mines above Glenridding in the winter, and coming out at Greenside in the snow. It can be a normal un-snowy winter’s day in Glenridding but once you pop out at Greenside it’s like being in the Alps. Walking up the Zig Zags is like going through the wardrobe and you come out in Narnia. Then after a day on Helvellyn with the crampons and ice axe or a day’s snowboarding on Raise you get back home and think, was I really in the Alps just a couple of hours ago, feels like it.
By having regular trips into the hills it keeps a balance in your life. It’s not all about work and commuting and paying the bills. Spending your recreational time out of the town or city is very important. You need to see real horizons, the craggier the better, and feel something other than the pavement beneath your feet. And country pubs are so much better and friendlier than town pubs, they’re a great way to reacclimatize after your wonderful day in the hills
with nature for company.
And there’s an old saying but there’s a lot of truth in it. Healthy Body Healthy Mind. You don’t need to join a gym or run a marathon. Just take regular walks and look after your diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg, we are merely animals grazing on this fine planet. Make your mental and physical health as much a priority as paying the bills and take the time to enjoy the little things. We are so lucky to live in the most beautiful country in the world, please take the time to enjoy it.