colour sunset

During the working week I do a daily lunchtime walk, however short – to switch off  and to calm my mind, while getting a quick burst of fresh air and exercise at the same time.

I work in a creative profession and creativity doesn’t come from staring at a computer screen or from looking at a wall. Spending time outdoors, however, is something which does inspire me, making me feel refreshed, invigorated, motivated and full of ideas.

As I don’t have long, I walk very close to home, which usually means the canal path at Hythe, or along the seafront. I walk whatever the weather.

puddles on the path

I find a short break out in the open good for my health, both physically and mentally.  Physically, it gets me moving and burns a few calories. I can relax my hunched up neck and shoulders and get some daylight and Vitamin D. 

jane barlow walking happy

But there are also benefits to my mental health. I make sure I properly switch off from work and any issues or concerns I might have in my personal life. That’s not always easy to do and when I first started my weekday walks, I noticed I could get almost to the end and hadn’t noticed a single thing along the way. So I quickly developed a strategy to make sure I got the most from my 30 minute stride.

As I set off, the first thing I do is spend a minute or so counting my blessings – quite literally. I usually get up to 10 and sometimes 20! I focus on positives. At the moment, during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, rather than think about what I can’t do, I concentrate on the aspects of my life which are now better.

soothing river view

The pandemic has meant I’ve been working from home – and the benefit of this is that I no longer have to sit on the motorway for the best part of two hours a day to get to and from work, which I found soul destroying. Although I would usually do a lunchtime walk from the office, it was often near a busy and noisy main road. I’m grateful to now find myself walking along a quiet path where I can hear waves crashing rather than cars roaring by. I appreciate the fact that I’m somewhere lovely and breathing in clean, fresh air.

fresh air escapism scene by river

Next I tune into each of my senses, one by one. I give my full attention to what I can see, what I can hear and what I can smell, which brings me into the moment, rather than my thoughts drifting off onto other things.

I’m lucky to live by the coast. But as well as the sea and the beaches, we also have some beautiful countryside in Folkestone and Hythe. I take in the picturesque scenery as I walk. I spot the robins and the squirrels. I watch the changing seasons and how there is beauty in each one. I see how the trees have changed from summer, to autumn and now completely bare, but still stunning, in winter.

squirrel in nature

I listen to the birds who sing no matter what the weather is doing and it always makes me smile.

On some very busy days at work, even a 30 minute dash in the middle of the day isn’t possible, in which case I make sure I get out for a quick stroll at the end of the working day instead. I finish work at 4.30pm (I have a very early start) and in December and January I’ve caught some amazing sunsets.

winter sunset

During the pandemic, walking has been my saviour. Normally I spend my time and energy, outside of work, salsa dancing, several times a week, many hours at a time, but all that it is on offer at the moment is online classes, dancing at home in the kitchen! But I’ve found that swapping hot and sweaty air conditioned dance studios, sequins and stilettos, for rain, mud, puddles and trainers has actually been quite good fun – and something I will definitely stick with for a very long time to come.

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