Today is International Day of Happiness. And as the Glamoraks mission is to make women happier one step at a time, I thought I'd find out whether it was just me that felt happy when they went walking.
Nope. Not just me. Watch the video to see the smiling faces of our members from around the world plus their reasons that walking makes them happy.
But I also did a snap survey to find out a bit more, to dig slightly deeper. And here's what I found:
So there you have it. Walking definitely makes people happier. That happiness can last a few hours or a few days. It helps with a myriad of emotions and mental health issues. As long as there is open space, fresh air and peace, people don't really mind where they walk. Urban environments and park being the one that didn't get any votes. And it seems most people don't mind who they walk with - just as long as they can get out there!
I asked for a statement to describe why walking makes them happy. I couldn't include them all but this is what they said:
If you would like to feel these benefits too, join Glamoraks today. It's free. It will absolutely make you happier. It may just change your life.
I've just returned from a lovely 7.5 mile walk starting at Cod Beck Reservoir, tracking through Osmotherley and along a stretch of the Cleveland Way in the North Yorkshire Moors. I haven't been on many walks recently. My personal life has been somewhat fraught/busy/overwhelming for the last few months, so walking had to take a back seat.
But today I had a free day. No kids. No commitments. And yes there were household jobs to do - when aren't there? - but I decided to prioritise time for me.
Luckily, a Glamoraks member had planned a walk for today. That's how Glamoraks works. Someone decides that they want to do a walk and they choose a route. They share it in the group and/or the Facebook page and other people can decide to join them. You can search for members or walks near you too (and we have members all over the world.)
For many people, coming on one of these walks is daunting. They don't know anyone and as with any new situation, meeting new people and trying new things can feel scary. But as the ladies on the walk today can testify, there is absolutely no reason for nerves.
We are women with completely different stories and backgrounds. Yet we all love the same thing - getting outside in the fresh air and having a good long stomp. Now had this walk not been set up today, I would have gone on my own (although it would have been easier to cry off and binge watch Game of Thrones), but for many others, they would prefer not to be alone out on a remote path.
Many don't feel brave enough to be the walk organiser, but once they've been on one, realise that actually it's not that scary either. No-one expects you to be a qualified walker. It's ok if we get lost. Or it's muddy. Or we want to change course. Or stop for tea. We're just grateful that someone has encouraged us to get out there.
Besides the normal chat about parenting, food, jobs, holidays, we had quite a bit of chat today about doing things that push you out of your comfort zone, saying yes more.
My take on this is that the fears you may have because you've never done something will always be there - it's your body's natural instinct to keep you safe. But as soon as you do it, you realise that the worries you had were often far worse than reality.
And it's not just walking that this applies to. Anything that you may be facing - getting a divorce, moving house, starting a new job or leaving a job, tackling an illness, have kids leave home, dealing with a family crisis, or taking on the bucket list thing you've always wanted to do but don't feel brave enough - you can do it.
Please believe me: YOU. CAN. DO. IT.
No matter what it is, how huge or scary, just tackle it one step at time. And you will find yourself doing it. And you're ok. And in many cases, so much better than you were before. So in the words of that famous shoe brand: Just do it.
How do I know that you'll be ok?
Because on every Glamoraks walk, I hear different women's stories and it always amazes me at just how resilient women are. No matter what they've been through, it turns out ok. Hearing these stories from people outside your normal friendship group opens up your mind and deepens your compassion for what others face. It also inspires you to try some of the things they've done or get ideas on what to do next.
Sometimes the world and our own personal lives can feel a bit overwhelming or negative. But just one walk with a group of women, I guarantee, will put a smile of your face, a glow in your cheeks and a sparkle in your eyes - see the evidence below. And hopefully, it will also give you that little confidence boost to know that you can do it, whatever 'it' is.
(Incidentally, we passed the sign in the picture above on our walk today ....)
Glamoraks is a global online community that connects women so that they have someone to go walking with either in their local area, or to a place they're travelling to. Glamoraks members are all different - with different ability levels, interests and goals. It's useful to learn about other members to get inspired by their stories and to realise that these aren't just names in an online community, but real people.
Meet Louise Shorten, a Glamoraks member who lives in a small village south of Ripon in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire. She shares her experience of being part of Glamoraks and what it's given her.
I'm married (20th anniversary this year!) to Chris and we have two children - Jack, 16 and Millie, 12. We also have a little dog called Harry, and somehow (!) two ponies, Fleur and Bobby. I work at home for my father's business located in the USA and I manage the company's marketing. We lived in the USA for a year and returned back to the UK in 2014, then moved home to North Yorkshire (where I am from originally) last summer.
I am up for any type of walking and adventure but I most enjoy multi-day hike and long trails. Chris (somewhat reluctantly) and I completed the coast to coast walk last year after walking it over the three holidays - I'd love to do it in one go! Other walks/ambitions on my to-do list are: High Cup Nick, the Camino Way, complete the Wainwrights and to camp out/sleep in a bothy! I also have a love of maps and relish the challenge of navigating. I have completed my NNAS Silver award but I would like to complete the gold in the future and now I am in the perfect environment to do this!
I'd joined Glamoraks in the hope of meeting new friends to walk with who live near me as when I moved I didn't know anyone other than my extensive family who mostly live in Yorkshire. It's also difficult as an adult to make new friends quickly and to develop a deeper relationship than the occasional "hello" and chit chat - so Glamoraks hits both objectives in one.
I've been on two weekends away with Glamoraks (Malham and the Coastal Caper) and I've joined and organised a few walks. I have met lots of fellow Glamoraks and have made some new lovely friends! We're all different but it's great to chat about our loves and to share a love of walking and the outdoors.
When you go somewhere new with new people you've never met, you never know what it's going to be like so I did have a sense of nervous anticipation but I just thought that most of us will be in the same boat - what had I got to lose and worse case if I didn't like it, I could choose not to go again! I did enjoy it very much though and felt very happy with the sense of possibilities for getting out and about that could come from it in the future. The opportunity to meet new friends isn't going to come to me so I have to make it happen in whatever way I can. Being out of your comfort zone can be stressful but you will never regret it and will always grow stronger from it.
I think Glamoraks offers a safe as possible environment in which to connect and meet other women who love walking. It offers a platform for inspiration and motivation to get out and be adventurous. Like many women as they get older, I feel a greater sense of vulnerability and have an eroding level of confidence but Glamoraks provides an opportunity to regain some of our former selves and some of the joie-de-vivre of our youths!
My advice to other women is: life can be short so just do it - NOW!!! Life might pass you by and before you know it your situation may change and the opportunity could be lost.
I've definitely been inspired by other Glamoraks. We've all have our fair share of baggage but it's great to know that you're not alone. It's a chance to discover new places, to be uplifted, motivated to get out and feel great! I'm looking forward to my next Glamoraks walk wherever that may be...
If you want to get out walking more often, make new friends and explore new places, join Glamoraks. You get a two week free trial to test it out first so what is there to lose? CLICK HERE TO JOIN
Glamoraks was set up to help women find other women to go walking, hiking or adventuring with.
Picture this: you have a free weekend or day and want to head outdoors for a good long walk. You could go on your own, but you'd rather have some company. However, no-one you know is free. Do you scrap the idea or go alone? That's where the Glamoraks community kicks in to help you find a new walking buddy. So how does it work?
Here's a real life example from Jo Shaw, a Glamoraks member from Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK. Jo describes herself as a beginner walker on her community profile, saying:
"I’m very new to walking and would love to meet up with others for walks in and around Yorkshire. I would love to make some new friends, get fitter and have fun!"
Here's how she used Glamoraks to meet someone new to go walking with:
After signing up to the new Glamoraks network I put a post up asking if anyone would mind if I tagged along on a walk in the Leeds area and Claire Woodland replied to say she would be up for going walking with me. Together, we decided on a date, location and time and then posted our walk as event on the app to see if anyone else wanted to join us.
Where did you walk?
We went walking in Yorkshire Sculpture Park and managed a leisurely walk of just under 6 miles.
What was the experience like?
It was a really great experience! I was nervous about meeting up with someone new and I can get quite anxious in new situations but as soon I met Claire I felt at ease. We had lots in common, never ran out of anything to say. Our pace of walking was the same too so it was really lovely to not feel rushed or worried that we were holding anyone up. After the walk we had a well deserved ice cream in the sunshine and chatted about walks we would like to do in the future. As my first ever walk with someone I didn’t know, I thought the experience was great and has given me the confidence to go on more walks with new people.
Have you got plans for future hikes?
Yes, I'm now arranging another hike for June and am happy to have others in the area join me.
Would you like to meet other like-minded women to get out walking with? Join Glamoraks. We have 1,200 members across the UK and now in a number of countries around the world.
Glamoraks come from all over the world. We're all at different ages and stages but we share one thing in common: a love of the outdoors.
Meet Pang Kim Buay
Kim lives in Singapore, has two grown up children and she teaches chemistry at A-level. Her walks are mostly in parks or coastal, anywhere between 3 and 7km in length. She describes herself as a beginner/intermediate but she began walking back in 2003.
Who or what inspired you to get into walking?
I had health problems and high blood pressure so my doctor recommended exercise to control it.
Is there a particular walk you’ve done that really sticks out in your mind?
1) I did the Milford Track guided walk in New Zealand for three days when I was about 24 years old.
2)The hike up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan last year at 58 years old-felt a sense of achievement as I had not walked uphill (900 m) much as the only hill in Singapore is 164 m high. I managed to do the 4 hours trek (round trip) with my not-too-good knees for three reasons: I practiced climbing my local hill for three weekends, I wore knee guards and I used hiking poles
Why do you enjoy walking?
It makes me feel good as our body releases good endorphins during exercise. I love nature very much. Its good for my health. It lets me socialise with friends when I lead the walk.
What walks or challenges are on your bucket list?
1) Trails in Canada's National Parks
2) Sapa rice fields
3) Walk the Great Wall of China again but in different region
What’s the biggest walking challenge you’ve undertaken?
Upon return from Bhutan, I became hooked on climbing not too difficult hills/mountains. So I went across to Malaysia and climb Gunong Lambak in Kluang/Malaysia. It was unexpectedly more difficult than the trek in Bhutan as I really needed to hold on to the ropes to get up at some parts. Fortunately I went with the same two younger colleagues as our Bhutan trip and we encouraged each other to reach the top.
Tell us one unusual thing about you unrelated to walking?
I am crazy about travelling!
What advice would you give to other women about walking?
Use walking for bonding and exercising purposes. Our University friends of about 10 ladies sort of reunite for walks about three times a year. I've lead about eight walks already since 2015.
Why did you decide to join Glamoraks?
I have always loved the English countryside as I studied in University of London Institute of Education in 1983/1983 on our Government scholarship. It is one country that I love visiting again and again. I loved the walk to see Seven Sisters near Brighton and some short walks in Lake district last year.
What do you want most from the Glamoraks community?
To see and enjoy the experiences of many like minded people from all parts of the world and hopefully join some walks by Glamoraks when I visit England again after retiring. Next year I will be 60 years old.
If you would like to get inspiration from other women from around the world who also enjoy walking, meet up with them, take on new walking challenges or explore, join Glamoraks - an online community making women around the world happier one step at a time.
When I set up Glamoraks, I wasn't sure whether women really needed other women to go walking with. After all, I was perfectly happy to walk on my own. But I realised that while the solitude of solo walking is great, walking with others just makes the experience more fun.
In the Glamoraks community, I asked people why they had joined. Many of them said simply that they love the outdoors and walking, but here are just a few of the comments that prove the need for a platform like Glamoraks:
'I would like to experience new walks with like minded people.'
'I enjoy walking but do not have anyone to go out with.'
'I would like to find other women to walk with.'
'Looking for a group to walk with.'
'I am working towards my Hill and Moorland Leader qualification so always looking for walking buddies!'
'It would be great to have a wider network of walking friends who enjoy similar walks.'
'The kids have now flown the nest, & I only work a few hours a week. My friends are free occasionally, & my husband works through the week, and as he is a golfer, so I am often with out a walking buddy.'
'I'm joining because it seems like a great idea for fierce women and even if there's nothing near me at the moment, I might be able to use it in the future.'
'I love the outdoors, but I'm not a hardcore wild camper, I'd like to meet new friends & go walking a lot more often.'
'Would be lovely to have company when walking and learn new routes.'
'I want to get out more and if there are other people motivating me I am more likely to get out and go for a walk. '
'I'd like to meet new people and be persuaded to explore new areas and walk more!'
'I love being outdoors but fail to get out there as often as I would like. The ability to tag onto a random walk with friendly people would motivate me to walk more spontaneously!'
'Walking with others allows me to go to different places that i wouldn't go on my own.'
'I almost always walk alone but am starting to take on more challenging hikes and would love company from time to time. Adventures are always more fun when shared!'
'I’ve joined Glamoraks to try and meet some new friends, get fitter, enjoy the countryside more and hopefully all of this will increase my confidence.'
But here's the even more amazing thing. I knew I'd get a following in York and Yorkshire as that's where I live, but I did a quick scan of where people said they lived. Here are the top locations:
2. The rest of Yorkshire - included north, west and south Yorkshire
4. East Sussex & Brighton
5. Thames Valley - Berks, Bucks, Oxon
6. Paris & surrounding areas
7. Peak District / Derbyshire
8. The West Midlands - particularly around Birmingham
9. The East Midlands - including Nottingham, Leicestershire, Hertforshire and Northamptonshire
9. Cheshire & Manchester
11. Hampshire & the Isle of Wight
15. Scottish Borders
18. North East (including Durham)
20. South Wales - Swansea, Cardiff, Rhonnda
21. Scotland - Fife, Renfrewshire, Stirling, Aberdeen, Dundee
22. Ireland - County Cork, County Kildare, County Wicklow
25. Auckland, New Zealand
26. British Columbia, Canada
30. USA: Arizona, California, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon, Florida
There are lots of other places in the UK with just one person currently listed from an area or I've missed them, but here are some of the other places around the world we have members:
- Australia (Sydney and Gold Coast)
- Isle of Man
- Somerset, South Africa
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Berlin, Germany
- Saudia Arabia
- Turin, Italy
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Barcelona, Spain
Why not join us and add your location to our growing group of outdoor-loving women? It is free (for life) to join Glamoraks if you do it by 13 April 2018. So get cracking! Here's the link to join: https://glamoraks.mn.co
Once you're in, it's simple to find someone near you to walk with, just click Members, then Near You - and you'll see everyone who is close to you. If you don't have anyone near you yet, help us spread the word. And if you joined but haven't been back, head back in. You might just find someone right on your doorstep or the place you're going to for your next holiday. How fab would it be to explore another part of the world with a fellow Glamorak?
Help me spread the word and help yourself in the process. Feel free to post in the comments where you live.
Many people have looked at me askance when I say that I'm heading off for a weekend of walking with a bunch of women I've never met, saying things like: 'Isn't it weird?' or 'What if you don't like them?'
I probably thought the same until I did it. And then I realised what a joy walking with women who are complete strangers can be. Here's why:
You hear their stories
In a world where we all talk to much and listen too little, when you go out walking you have plenty of time for both. Some people will immediately open up and tell you their life story. Others will gradually reveal tiny snippets of who they are. But eventually you get to the heart of what makes them unique. And EVERYONE has a fascinating story. Hearing those stories broadens your horizons, makes you recognise and appreciate people's differences, puts your own story in context and boosts your empathy.
You get to tell your story
When last did you tell someone the story of how you came to be where you are today? Often our current friends either know that story or the conversation centres around the day to day, rather than the big things that have shaped your life. By retelling your story to strangers, it reminds you are how far you've come and possibly prompts you to want to try something new to create an exciting next chapter.
You come as you are
In our daily lives, we slip into a persona people have come to expect - whether that's at work, at the school gate, out on the town, or at sports club. Sometimes that persona isn't exactly who we really are, but it feels like you have to keep it in place so as not to upset the group dynamic. But when you walk with strangers, you can simply be you, no persona required. It is exceptionally liberating.
You realise how different but the same we all are
When you don't get to choose your company, you are presented with a random mix of people from completely different backgrounds. But here's the thing: although we are all so different, fundamentally we are also all so very alike. We all go through similar challenges and emotions. Our experiences may be unique but our basic humanity is the same. Not everyone will instantly be your cup of tea, but if you remove judgement and simply see them for who they are, you see how necessary and beautiful those differences are.
You see the immense strength women have
You probably know the challenges your closest friends or family members have been through. But when you hear about the challenges other women have faced, you realise how universally strong women are. Whether it's relationship breakdowns, loss of children or partners, a career challenge, having to rebuild a new sense of purpose, fighting against injustice putting their own mental health at risk, building businesses and being the mainstay of the family unit - women are pretty exceptional and spending time with women you don't know opens your eyes to the private struggles they go through daily.
You discover a new side to yourself
Sometimes it takes a stranger to hold a mirror up to you to recognise the person you have become. They might say things like: You are so strong. What an exceptional thing you've done. That is so fascinating. Those things may seem entirely ordinary to you, but when you hear it from a stranger, you think perhaps I am strong, exceptional and fascinating. Your confidence will be boosted and your self esteem reframed.
Because not everything is serious. And they won't have heard your jokes or funny stories before and you won't have heard theirs!
If you would like to find other women to go walking with, join Glamoraks. It is an online community that lets you find other women near you to easily arrange walks and adventures together. They may start out as strangers but they won't stay that way.
This post was prompted by the most recent Glamoraks Walking Weekend that took place 24-25 March 2018 on the South Downs as well as other recent walks I've done with people who were previously strangers to me. Below is a video of the South Downs scenery and a sense of how a group of strangers left as friends.
If you would like to meet other women to go walking, hiking or adventuring with, join the Glamoraks online community.
In January 2017, I set up a Facebook group for women who like to walk. I had no real idea what I wanted it to be. I just loved walking and knew how happy it made me. I figured I couldn't be the only women who felt like that and I wanted to encourage others to experience the same joy.
Over the course of the year, the group grew to over 1000 members - mostly from the UK but with many from as far afield as Canada, USA, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Austria, Sweden and India. It was featured in a number of national publications including Good Housekeeping, Top Sante, Healthy and the Saturday Telegraph. I also set up and ran the first Glamoraks walking weekends in Malham and the Yorkshire Coast, where a group of ladies who didn't know each other, stepped out of their comfort zones and headed off to a hostel for a night. Several more are scheduled for 2018 including one on the South Coast, one in the Peak District and a Snowdon climb in September.
At the same time, I personally walked further, blogging about each walk, and took on some challenges, like climbing Kilimanjaro, wild camping solo on a hill and sleeping in a bivvy bag on a coastal cliff with a hurricane approaching. I also attended a women's adventure expo, Basecamp Festival where I knew no-one and did my Straight to Silver Navigation course.
But while I was doing all of that, I was still running my main business, looking after my two kids, doing all that household stuff we all have to do and all the back end work for Glamoraks, like trademarking the name, investigating technology platforms and managing the community.
It's been a massive learning experience - often exhausting - but now we are ready for the next chapter.
First of all, we have a brand new, more professional look with a shiny new logo and brand colours. I wanted colours that reflected the North Yorkshire Moors that I walk in most often. The green and heather colours perfectly capture the colours of the moors in summer. And the boots represent freedom, adventure and exploring the world.
Secondly, I'm pleased to say that the Glamoraks group will be moving from Facebook into its very own home on a new platform. Woohoo! Does the platform do everything I would like it to do? Nope. But is it better than Facebook? Absolutely. (Particularly in light of recent news about Facebook and data sharing).
What is the aim of the new platform?
The main aim is to enable women to find other women to go walking with - no matter where in the world they are. Think of it like an airbnb - but instead of finding places to stay, you find people to go exploring with. On top of that, it will act as a reminder to get out walking, a source of inspiration or ideas for new walks to try and a place questions can be answered.
This isn't a normal walking group where walks are organised and you go and follow the leader. This puts you in control. You decide when you want to walk, where you want to walk and who you want to walk with. The community simply makes it easy to organise.
Here's what it lets members do:
It is brand new and everyone is still finding their way around. But as it grows, it will become increasingly valuable. And for now until 13 April 2018, it is free. Join by the 13th and you have free access to the community for life. Thereafter new members will be charged a small monthly fee to help cover the costs of running the site. But there will be plenty of incentives. As the group grows, I will be getting discounts from outdoor brands, walking holiday companies and other relevant parties to share with members. (Incidentally, if you are an outdoor brand or walking holiday company, please get in touch or look here for more info on how to get involved). Plus members will get exclusive access to Glamoraks walking weekends, events and branded merchandise.
Glamoraks is a completely unique group. It's not trying to prove anything to anyone. It's not competitive. It's simply a way for women at all levels to find like minded women to connect with. I hope you will help me spread the word and help get women from around the world connecting - and feeling happier - through walking.
JOIN THE GROUP
Take a look at the home page of the site to find out more. Or watch the video below to find out what you can do in the new platform.