This week I was honoured to be part of The Travel Story Society’s mental health week with my post about the positive effects of dog walking . The Travel Story Society share travel stories and tips from their collective and multiple guest writers. The excellent guidance and funny stories (including a story about accidentally joining a Chinese mob party) are perfect for a lazy Sunday morning read. Check them out!
From One Owner to Another is a great blog that gives dog owners a place to go to find the best places to take their dog. She focuses on travelling with her canine friend. She also has a great post on lockdown entertainment for your pooch. So if you are looking for new places that your dog will enjoy too, or you just love hearing about others pooches then head straight to www.oneownertoanother.com/blog/. Today we are lucky enough to have her as a guest writer and as it is mental health week, she will be talking about the positives of owning a dog on your mental health and the places to go with your dog to get yourself in a good mindset.
In England, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue and, sadly, in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. Mental health has never been so important to address. I find, dog walking is a great way to relieve stress and improve mental health.
Exercise is well known to improve mental health by stimulating the feel-good hormones and making people see situations in a more positive light. We also get a boost when we see our pooches happily trotting along beside us, sniffing at all the new smells and meeting other dogs. Other dogs usually means other owners, adding a social element to the walk that again has benefits on our mental health. Finally, just being with your dog is known to lower stress levels. They are your best buddy, someone you can count on and will always be by your side no matter what, you’re going through. Who doesn’t love a cuddle from their best friend when they are close to tears.
My favourite types of stress relieving walks
For me, walking relieves stress because it enables me to reset. Spending time with my pooch, focussing on something not work related, the fresh air, and generally just having my best friend there, stops me over thinking and over analysing things (‘damaging self-talk’). Walking is a great way to practice mindfulness as you can focus on your dog and the views. The best location and type of walk will differ for each person, but here are my favourites:
This is no doubt an unpopular opinion among dog-walkers, but I love walking around a city and taking in the sites, the buzz, the food and the history. My dog and I regularly walk for miles around our city, Bristol. I am easily bored and having something that offers new sights and new experiences excites me. We stop at parks so that my dog gets a chance to run. Walking a dog in a city just provides you with stuff to do, further distracting you from the worries that are affecting you back at home. A great way to explore a city with your dog is to take a tour. Go look at my blog, ‘how to spice up your everyday dog walks,’ on my site.
These are walks that require effort and have fantastic rewards. In this category I place hiking, climbing mountains (or steep hills that were once mountains like Pen Y Fan!) and even tors. These walks work up a sweat, which makes you feel good, and you are usually rewarded by fantastic views. Plus, my dog is like a mountain goat and loves climbing! Standing looking over the beautiful world we live in, with my best friend, gives me a sense of triumph that really makes me feel good about myself, like I have conquered something, putting me in a positive mindset to conquer whatever is troubling me at home.
Forests and coastlines
I have grouped these as I love them equally. Both forest and coastlines bring me a sense of peace. I can happily wander through a forest with a friend, a good podcast or the sounds of the forest. My dog loves chasing the wildlife – especially a squirrel. A forest makes me feel like I have escaped the urban scrum that is everyday life, and being able to escape gives you the opportunity to rest.
Whereas I could watch the water along the coast for hours. You can do so many different things beside and on the water, the opportunities are endless. Most dogs love splashing around in the water. Mine hates water, but is fascinated by the beach.
Pretty villages and countryside
Here’s another unpopular opinion: I get bored of pretty villages and countryside very quickly. My friends love them however. We have visited lots of different pretty villages (yes including the Cotswolds) and countryside, which has been great for my Instagram account, but without a friend or a podcast to distract me I think my mind would wander pretty quickly. That said, these villages tend to have great pubs and fantastic food. Pros and cons to everything I suppose.
Alone or with others?
This completely depends on you and the type of person you are. I love people and I love to talk it out – that’s the extrovert in me. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a walk, just me and the pooch, but I would prefer to be with others. Walking with others has shown time and again to be beneficial. One example is a walking group called ‘Dudes and dogs’ in Bristol that was set up by a guy. “He said dog walking had pulled him out of “years of suffering with depression” and now wants to share the space with other men who could also benefit.” (BBC news). This is an amazing cause and really deserves you time and attention so go check it out. If you are unlucky enough to not live in the beautiful West Country then check to see if your city has a similar group of dog walkers.
I like running and I enjoy the gym, but I love walking with my dog. Walking with my dog and friends has helped me cope with lockdown. I believe that it can help many currently struggling. Plus, you don’t even have to own a dog, you can borrow one! If the health and social benefits haven’t swayed you, then maybe you should do it for the views and the spectacular natural scenery all around us.
Thank you for reading, I have loved sharing.
Also thank you to The Travel Story Society for letting me share with you guys and please go check out my blog and instagram, www.oneownertoanother.com and my insta is just oneownertoanother. Stay safe and stay active where you can.
Please note that walking is being recommended to enhance your mood and help manage stress. You should speak with a health professional about the best preventative and reactive mental health management methods for you.