Kate Stevens

Kate Stevens, Life Coach

3 Brilliant Benefits of Walking in Nature on Mental Health and Wellbeing

Midlife woman walking with her younger daughter and dog. She is making a face at the photographer

5-7 min read with research and links


Ever Noticed How You Feel After Walking in Nature?


Walking in nature has brilliant benefits on our mental health and wellbeing and it’s so simple and effective. It helps us;

  • Clear our mind
  • Solve problems
  • Feel better, feel happier


So what’s happening to us on a walk in nature?

In this blog post, I’ll share my personal and professional experience as a Walk and Talk Life Coach, with some of the incredible research that shows us the greater benefits of walking in nature, rather than urban places. Plus how we can make it happen.


My Midlife ‘Walk and Whinge’; How I Rediscovered Walking – and Talking


I’m going to share my experience of rediscovering walking and the fab mental health benefits of walking in nature, which for me is in my local urban parks, during a tricky period.


In my mid-forties I felt stressed and anxious about my then HR career and general life – I felt stuck. My head was full and I was full of self-criticism and doubt. My usual glass of wine in the evening exacerbated my anxiety and sleeplessness – not unusual in perimenopausal women or for those with anxiety, but I didn’t realise I was in the perimenopause back then.


So instead of meeting friends for a moan and a drink, I’d go for a ‘Walk and Whinge’ in Dulwich Park or Beckenham Place Park (large, London urban parks), with my brilliant mates Shelly and Jo.


The Walk and Whinge was perfect for nailing the daily steps whilst releasing an array of emotions! Whinging, laughing, crying…. I always feel better, like a mental weight had been partially lifted. It helped my mental health and wellbeing, but it was only part of the solution.


No coincidence that this later evolved into my job today as a Walk and Talk Life Coach – more another time. But my work as a Life Coach has made me realise that my mates and I were not unique in this experience.


Read more about the ‘Perimenopause and Why you Need to Know..’, here.

Autumn leaves on a path and tree in the background

Beckenham Place Park – a go-to for an inspiring walk and think

So What’s Going on?


Researchers have reported for decades, the positive effects on our mental health, wellbeing and physical health whilst walking. Many of us will already know and feel this. But it’s the walking in nature part that’s interesting.

According to research, walking in nature seems to have a greater, positive impact to wellbeing and mental health, rather then an urban walk.



The Benefits of Walking in Nature our Mental Health and Wellbeing


1.   Walking in nature reduces feelings of stress

A walk in nature reduces activity in the brain areas responsible for processing stress, according to a recent study. Linked to a decrease in the activity in the amygdala – the part of the brain that processes fear/threat and ‘negative’ emotions, a walk in the park or by water can help soothe and calm you. For best results, 60 minutes of walking in a natural setting is recommended, though other research shows as little as 10 minutes (in some young adults) can help too.


Take it a step further and forest-bathe. Shinrin-yoku is a sensory experience of allowing oneself to absorb and be with nature, whilst walking. In the pine and cedar forests in Japan and South Korea, doctors prescribe individuals presenting stress symptoms (in particular), to forest-bathe and destress.


You can enjoy forest bathing in the UK and I’d recommend it, even in an urban park setting. I did in 2021 in Crystal Palace Park with Parkbathe. My experience is here.



2.   We find mental clarity walking in nature

If you walk in nature to clear your mind from the busyness of the day, then you’re on to a winner.  Stephen and Rachel Kaplan’s ‘Attention Restoration Theory’ (1989) suggests that our brains go through 4 different stages before effectively getting a reset. The trick? Set the right conditions – be in nature.


The first stage is a clearing of the mind – whirring thoughts and worries subside when we allow them to surface and flow out, in nature. Like a ‘declutter’, if we rid of the old and no longer useful stuff, we can make space to relax and think more clearly.


Hester van Hien from Tidylicious is a Professional Organiser and notices the similarities in her work;

“When I help people to declutter their home, it’s not just about creating a tidy home. It’s also, or perhaps even more so, about creating an environment where you can relax and do the things that are important to you. Such as spending more time with your children or partner, or reading a book without feeling that you ‘should’ be doing something else.’


Shane O’Mara, Professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College Dublin, sums it up nicely in his excellent book, ‘In Praise of Walking’:

"Walking gives me the freedom to think things through, to have a quiet dialogue with myself about how to solve a problem."


A group of people walking and talking on a narrow lane in nature


3.   Walking in nature improves our mood

Do you notice you find walking in a green space or by water more enjoyable than an urban street? Participants in one study vastly underestimated how much better they would feel taking the nature/scenic route on their large uni campus in Ottawa, Canada,, rather than one of the underground walkways available for extreme weather conditions. There was about a 33% increase in individuals’ self-reported good mood on the scenic route, over those who had taken the underground walkway.


Could a Walk in Nature Help you Think More Clearly?


We know a walk outdoors in a calming, natural environment will;

  • lift our mood – positive emotions
  • clear our head from whirring thoughts and endless to-do lists and – better wellbeing
  • enable us to feel soothed and less stressed – rest and digest


Looking at the 45 year old me – a midlife woman unknowingly starting her menopause journey, I’m grateful I worked out that being outdoors on a walk made me feel better both mentally and physically. I’m grateful for that Walk and Whinge (now no more!) with my lovely Shelly and Jo.


A walk in nature helps me think clearly – because I slow down and I’m more present. I ask better questions, I make better decisions.


And of course I’ve taken it further with my own Walk and Talk Life Coaching – the antidote to online meetings and sitting at your desk.



So what’s stopping you from taking a regular walk in nature for your wellbeing and mental health?


Circular, guerilla road sign of a heart with the word "Joy' written underneath. In my local neighbourhood of Sydenham, London
Guerilla road sign in Sydenham London, which brings me joy

Create Your own Nature Walk for Wellbeing and Mental Health


1.   Design your commute to work with a walk

Take a walking commute outdoors before you log-on if you’re WFH. Or, find a new scenic route if you already walk/part-walk to work.
= Encourages boundaries between work and home and gets your thoughts into order at the start of the day. You might even find some joy!


2.   Reset your brain and body at lunchtime with a walk

Struggling to find the time? Write it down as a goal or intention. Step by step (like the pun?!).

= Goals are more effective when you really want to do them and they’re rewarding, they’re written down and SMART.


3.   Go for a walk and disconnect from distractions

Walk solo and handsfree, which means do not use your phone – AT ALL. Good if you notice that your phone has become an extension of your body…

= Provides your brain with a much-needed break from the distractions and information overload (Attention Restoration Theory as mentioned before).



How does a walk in nature benefit you?



And if you’re a woman in her midlife who likes a walk, good conversation and you’re near South London…


…then join me on my monthly Walk and Talk for Midlife Women.



Our new website for Group Life Coaching – Pause Outdoors – COMING SOON!


PLUS Workshop; Managing the Midlife Mental Load – 17 March in Beckenham; details here



Group of women in midlife, laughing in a park on a bright, wintry day

Client agreement - ground rules.

1. Bring my whole self to this process; professionally and personally.

You cannot separate your professional and personal ‘lives’.

2. Be present in the moment and connected.

… to the coaching; what you’re thinking, feeling, experiencing. And…to nature if and where we are outdoors. If we’re on headphones, I’ll invite you to be descriptive of your environment too.

3. Bring the agenda to each session and keep your overall objective alive.

You can do this in several ways:

  • Be goal and action orientated – bring what you want to discuss and achieve to the session; OR
  • Talk and see what lands – exploratory and intentional.

I will bring the process, tools, ideas, resources and best practice to best support you towards your goal/intention/objective. More in your pre-coaching questionnaire. 

4. Give feedback and be responsive.

Coaching is collaborative. Neither of us should guess where we stand. I ask you to give me feedback and respond – you can rely on me to give and do the same.

I aim to get back to you within 24 hours of you emailing me, even if it’s just to say ‘I received your message’ before I respond properly. If it’s over the weekend or holiday, this may take longer.

5. Do the work in the session and in between sessions.

…so that you get the best value, even when it’s challenging. I might suggest a piece of work based on what you brought to the session. Mainly you will decide your course of action.

Whichever way, I’ll invite you to:

  • Reflect more; through walking, writing and whatever else fires you up, to help you achieve your objective.
  • Explore more; be curious and follow those trails of thought, intentionally
    Practice more; habits? Actions? Keep trying/tweaking.
  • Note what’s coming up that’s important or interesting to you in the session. I may share a few bullet points with you after, via Google Docs.

6. Session duration and timescale.

Generally a session is an hour but happy to shorten or increase session lengths, as and when we both can, that day. Where either of us thinks it appropriate, let’s say in the session. Timescale – let’s keep to the timescale agreed in the contract.

Additional information...

  • Coaching is a relationship designed to facilitate the development of personal or professional goals and develop a plan/strategy for achieving those goals.
  • It is comprehensive; it may involve other areas of your life beyond what you may have originally intended. It is your responsibility to choose and decide how to handle this, or even whether to.
  • It can be challenging; digging deep, creating better habits, becoming more self-aware, changing unhelpful beliefs you hold about yourself to something more helpful. There will be ups and downs. You will gain new insights, learnings and perspectives to help you achieve your goal.
  • You – the Client, are solely responsible for creating and implementing your own physical, mental and emotional well-being, decisions, choices, actions and results arising out of or resulting from the coaching relationship and your coaching calls and interactions with me – the Coach. As such, you agree that the Coach is not and will not be liable or responsible for any actions or inaction, or for any direct or indirect result of any services provided by me – the Coach. 
  • You – the Client, understand that in order to enhance the coaching relationship, you agree to communicate honestly, be open to feedback and assistance and to create the time and energy to participate fully in the program. I will do the same.
  • Coaching is not a substitute for counselling, mental health care or substance abuse treatment.  If you are in any kind of therapy, please tell me.  Tell your practitioner (medical or therapeutic) of you working with me.
  • I ask you to agree to commit to the coaching sessions to facilitate the required change.
  • I will treat you as the expert regarding the subject matter, which is…YOU.
  • I will allow time and space for you to explore your thoughts and think for yourself, no interruptions. There may be long pauses or silence sometimes to elicit more.
  • What goes on in your sessions is confidential. I do not discuss it with anyone. There may be occasion when it is my duty to break confidentiality:
    > If I feel you or I are at risk of harm.
    > Criminal / illegal activity.
    > A safeguarding concern or something else so serious that warrants concern.
  • I may talk to my coach or supervisor about issues arising in our sessions without ever naming or giving away you as the client. This is to ensure I am following professional and ethical guidelines and delivering my best. I subscribe to these by the ICF; https://coachfederation.org/code-of-ethics
  • Qualifications and CPD; I am an accredited coach. This means I have trained, practiced and qualified with Animas Centre for Coaching (Nov 2020). I hold a ‘Diploma in Transformational Coaching’. This is accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
    > I have my own coach and group supervision
    > My CPD includes –  Outdoor Intelligence for Online Coaching (Oct 2020) -Positive Psychology (Feb 2021

My accreditations


My story

I’d been trying to work out ‘what else’ I could do with my career and life.

After 20 years in HR and with the children getting older, I wanted to change careers, but into ‘what?’ And ‘how’ was that even possible? And…’who would take on a mid-40’s apprentice?’!

I took small steps to boost my confidence and mindset; a regular ‘walk and whinge’ with friends to offload, short courses to up-skill, more running, more netball.
I asked my workplace ‘what else’ they needed that I could help with – ‘job crafting’. 

I was trying to make changes but it wasn’t really working. I was still frustrated and now, more miserable. I needed a different approach to find a way forward and release the building pressure I felt.

Hiring an accredited coach with whom I knew I could work with, enabled me to take a good look at myself – at times, uncomfortably.

To be listened to without any interruption, or judgement was empowering and I started to recognise what made me, me – my personality, strengths, what energised me and made me happy. What if these things amounted to a job I would…love…?

I followed my curiosity and dabbled with ideas about potential jobs, tasks and environments that would suit me, with a new, growth mindset.

I started to shift perspective. When I finally realised the ‘what’, I felt an energy and sense of knowing that was powerful. And I laughed, because it had been right in front of me!

Coaching undoubtedly helped me get to know myself, to see my potential and what was possible. I wholeheartedly decided through those sessions, on what and how I wanted things to be.

It had taken me two years of feeling stuck and miserable and a number of hours to be liberated.

This is what I now do with my clients. I help them rediscover themselves so that they can play to their strengths and thrive.