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Walking for wellness

“Every walk is a crusade – returning us to our senses.” –  Henry David Thoreau

One foot in front of the other. It couldn’t be simpler. From bracing strides to gentle ambles, we’re putting our best foot forward to learn how walking by the ocean can improve the way we work. 

Watergate Bay Mindfit walk

The sound of the waves pulling at the shore. The rush of blood to your cheeks. Wet sand mirroring endless skies. Rarely does a walk by the sea – whatever the weather – fail to lighten a dark mood or bring clarity to a cluttered mind. 

But the transformative power of walking out in nature, and by the water specifically, could be a valuable way to sharpen focus, fire creativity and temper the tensions we butt up against in our daily working lives, too.

As soon as we get out on the beach, in nature, people become more present..

— Helen Gaskin, Mindfit Cornwall

Take me to the sea...

Helen Gaskin from Cornish wellness company Mindfit Cornwall is well-versed in the restorative power of time outdoors, regularly weaving time on the beach into her sessions when working with teams and individuals. “Nature is everything,” she says.“People become more present as soon as we get out onto the sand. It changes the energy and seems to recentre everyone.” 

Casting away the anchor of the desk/ office, Helen’s seen first-hand the many barriers vaulted as people make their way to the coastline. “The simple shift that comes from walking – whether alone or side by side with a colleague – can’t be ignored,” she says. “The gentle rhythm of the waves can mirror the rhythmic pace of walking. It creates harmony and puts people at ease.” 

Solo Traveller Beach Walking

Unmooring ourselves from the desk, escaping unnatural office lighting to feel the whistle of wind in our ears, the salty air, footsteps in sync with the sound of the waves – it all acts like a brain tonic.

“When we’re walking by the sea, we're able to focus; we can give ourselves a new mindset, moving from a common office environment into the natural world – you're removing those triggers that create blockages in creativity and communication,” explains Helen.

“Some people might think they work better under pressure, and they might,” she adds. “However, over time, it can all build up to create direct attention fatigue. Being in that constant state of fight or flight isn’t healthy, and the working environment can feed that state.”

Walkers on the coast path

Here comes the science

But how exactly does beach walking induce such calming and creativity-enhancing effects? Could there be something deeper at work?

Research shows the blue and green shades we gravitate towards at the coast can induce a sense of serenity and relaxation, “All of those natural factors you're experiencing on the coastline – the wind on your face, the sound of waves, birds overhead – it’s all conducive to attention restoration, lowering stress, lowering anxiety,” explains natural wellness expert Gina Geremia, from London’s Wellbeing Agency.

Repetitive fractal patterns activate our parasympathetic nervous system, taking us out of that fight-or-flight mode.

Embrace the rhythms 

From the steady roll of water hitting the shoreline to the tide-carved undulations on the sand, “When the eye takes in repetitive fractal patterns like the ripples in the water, and waves going from large to small to smaller, it activates our parasympathetic nervous system,” explains Gina. “It takes us out of that fight-or-flight mode, which can be people’s constant state in a stressful work environment.” 

Watergate Bay - beach walks Watergate Bay - beach walks

It is our habit to think outdoors – walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful.

— Friedrich Neitzsche.

As well as silencing some of the noise of daily thoughts, walking by the coast has the magical ability to dig into the depths of our mind and hook out creative ideas, too. 

Powerhouse thinkers such as Nietzsche, Thoreau and Dickens waxed lyrical about the imaginative meanders they’d discover just by walking in the open air. “Sit as little as possible,” said Nietzsche, who made walking the centrepiece of his philosophy. “Do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement… Sitting still…is the real sin.”

Mindfit Cornwall walk

Blue wonder 

Beyond the boost in blood flow that can help get ideas churning, there’s something altogether magic about sea air. “When you’re at the coastline or by any kind of moving water, there are a lot of negative ions being produced,” says Gina. “They work to purify the air by attaching to positively charged electrons. The result is that it increases serotonin, and that can alleviate depression, anxiety and stress.”

This idea chimes with the restorative philosophies of Shinrin-yoku or ‘Forest Bathing’ – a form of ecotherapy that emerged in Japan in the 1980s after the tech boom sent wellbeing spiralling, anxiety through the roof and stress levels soaring. 

Despite its name, Forest Bathing doesn’t technically have to take place around trees – similar benefits can occur when immersed in any form of nature, as Gina explains. “Coastlines are a great way to tap into a sensory immersive experience in the natural world. When you’re walking by the sea, your brainwaves can get lulled into this theta state of deep relaxation.”

So, next time you're feeling overwhelmed, stuck on repeat or gasping for some open-air inspiration, head to the coast and get walking. Who knows where it might take you…

Set right by the sands, with light-flooded spaces, quiet corners to tuck away and breakout beach time to punctuate the day, perhaps now’s the time to explore how a remote working getaway at Watergate Bay could bring inspiring new shades to your work life. 

Read Telegraph journalist Hattie Garlick’s take on her remote working experience in the Bay

Work From Here Beach Loft Hattie Garlick Work Life Balance Laptop Work From Here Beach Loft Hattie Garlick Work Life Balance Laptop

Planning your walking meeting 

Set your stride off to a smooth start by thinking about the following:

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