Zoe Sinclair interviews Jonathan Hoban, author of “ Walk with your wolf” – unlock your intuition, confidence and power
Q: Why do you think most of us didn’t know about the power of walking therapy before Lockdown?
I think many of us have known for quite some time just how good walking is for one’s mental health and especially whilst being surrounded by nature, in green spaces such as parks or countryside. But there is massive difference between knowing something and doing it. And I feel it’s only until more people have started to action walking each day, have they begun to understand, have the first-hand experience, and a much firmer grasp just how beneficial it is for their physiological and spiritual well-being. We can all talk a good talk, but can we walk a good walk? How many of us are really willing to make that daily commitment to ourselves and take the necessary amount of time needed to effectively prioritise and manage our mental health.
And by this I mean not just a quick walk to the shops. I mean fully utilising the outside time we are currently allowed in lockdown, to give ourselves the best possible chance to witness first-hand just how powerful walking can be in how it allows us to effectively process our emotions, gets our body and brain moving, provides us with self-regulating, soothing stimulus that helps us reset, de-stress and breathe. Lockdown has certainly allowed people the time to get outside and explore the local green spaces, although there are many that will remain stuck in same rut that they did when they were working around-the-clock prior to lock down. And whether in lockdown or outside of lockdown, it is this type of behaviour and mindset that ultimately needs to change. It is only us, and us alone, that can trap ourselves or free ourselves and we have the power to do either. When all is said and done, no matter how much our environment changes, it’s about the powerful choices we choose to make for ourselves, that will ultimately define our story.
Q: What is the difference between a walk to the shops and a walk as a method of confronting difficult emotions?
There is a vast difference between a walk to the shops and a proper stride out into a green space for around one hour. One will activate the necessary happy hormones we need to feel hopeful, optimistic and less stressed, and the other won’t to the same level, or have the same level of positive impact upon your psyche. When we walk outside we instantly increase our LUX LEVELS, which greatly affect our intake of much needed Vitamin D. In an office these are around 300 to 500. Outside in nature on average they are 50,000 in a green space.
When we walk for over 20 mins we start releasing dopamine and endorphins, and the other neurochemical introduced by walking in a green space is oxytocin, which helps to reduce our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which is one of greatest contributors to anxiety, depression, immune problems, and adrenal fatigue. We are also able on longer walks to channel energies such as frustration and anger out of our bodies, so they don’t remain somatically trapped inside, and therefore will feel a great sense of relief, release, and reduction in physical tension by the end of each walk. We are also devoting more time to our psyche being able to re-file any feelings or emotions that we may have compartmentalized, that need to be observed, felt and processed (emotional re-filing). And walking allows is to create this vital time boundary and window in our daily life to do just that.
Q: How did you find a love of walking?
From when I was very young I’d always walked regularly with my family at weekends, it was certainly a family affair. Both my parents were avid walkers, and greatly appreciated walking in nature, and what it did for the soul. But it was after I suffered an emotional crisis at the age of 23, that I took to walking in Wimbledon and Richmond Park each day, as a means to manage my anxiety and depression. It was the most intuitive decision I made in my life, and after my symptoms reduced vastly I began to realize just how powerful walking in nature was, and was amazed how the primal part of my brain reacted positively to this natural environment, and this daily action. I started to learn that walking in nature is what we are designed to do, and in my opinion a fundamental life requirement.
Q: How can we ensure we don’t throw away the good habits that we have created in the appreciation of the outdoors?
To maintain any good habit, we MUST diarise. Diarising helps ones manageability and will encourage to keep your mental health a priority. If you don’t diarise what you need to stay on top, you will always break routine. Making a contract with friends to go for a walk, and also selecting dates to reconnect to see how you’re both getting on with what you’ve committed to do, also really helps, and will this type of positive social networking will also help you develop a powerful influencer network, and community. If we create a positive motivating environment, which nature will certainly give you, with positive people who want the same as you, this will help make a massive difference in your ability to maintain positive behaviours and thinking patterns.
Jonathan Hoban, Author of “ Walk with your wolf” was interviewed by Zoe Sinclair