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  • Writer's pictureIan Blyth

Walking for Wellbeing - Part 1 - Mental Wellbeing

As part of our walking for wellbeing theme for this year’s Walkfest, we spoke with Amanda Thoden van Velzen, respected therapist and owner of Calmer Thoughts, a Cranleigh based business working with individuals and organisations to help improve mental health and wellbeing.

We asked Amanda for some wise words about the link between exercise and feeling better and she very kindly provided plenty of sound facts as well as a few handy tips.

‘There is no doubt whatsoever that exercise is hugely beneficial to a person’s wellbeing. From a mental health perspective we know that exercise improves mood and helps sleep quality, it also reduces stress and anxiety as well as increasing self-esteem.

So many studies confirm these benefits, and we also know that regular exercise is particularly beneficial to older people by helping to improve cognitive processes and memory.

I could just stop there to be honest but I rather suspect that Walkfest readers and participants are after a little more than ‘exercise is good for you’?

As a therapist I often ‘prescribe’ exercise for a whole range of issues and conditions, for me the very act of getting up and going outside is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a very positive step. It’s an activity that you can control, you can go at your own pace, listen to music or a good book, take an interest in houses that you pass, enjoy the countryside or simply empty your mind.

On the subject of enjoying nature, I was recently asked to write a few words on the subject of fractals.

You may know that the word fractal refers to a self-repeating pattern, often found in mathematical equations but there are also a great many examples to be found in nature, so much so that I titled my blog ‘Consider the Broccoli’ a rather tongue in cheek, self-deprecating piece that pointed out the prevalence of fractals all around us, even in the vegetable drawer of our fridges.

I mention this for two reasons, firstly to say that the contemplation of natural fractal patterns is a way to achieve an almost meditative state, spending time just looking at a tree or a flower in such details is a great way to clear the mind, we have an innate response to patterns in nature and studies show that stress levels can reduce by as much as 60% in a matter of minutes

The second reason I mention fractals is slightly more playful, because in taking the time to really look at something, we allow an opportunity to not take ourselves too seriously.

Just try it, next time you are out for a walk, stop and stare at a branch and consider how much it looks like a smaller version of an entire tree….you might surprise yourself, and even if you don’t, it may make you smile.

I would also say that walking is a wellbeing remedy that is accessible to all, literally on our doorstep and totally free, with no fancy equipment or experience needed.

I defy anyone not to feel the almost instant benefits of being outside, changing your environment and taking time to notice what is all around us.

I really hope that everyone has a great time this September, exploring the beautiful countryside in and around Guildford, we are so lucky to have such bounty on our doorsteps. The idea of walking for wellbeing is a wonderful addition to Walkfest, and thank you for asking me to contribute.’

We’d like to thank Amanda for her time and a small insight into the world of fractals and stress management, if you would like to learn more about Amanda’s work please visit the Calmer Thoughts website or email direct via

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