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 ....)
The sun was getting low in the sky, early afternoon on a mild November day. Beams of sunlight turned everything they touched to gold. To my right, the Atlantic ocean lazily lolled, barely breaking against craggy rocks far below. To my left, a green field dotted with sheep was a picture of tranquility. Ahead of me, two woman in my walking group were striding onwards, while behind me the rest of the group chatted quietly.
I walked alone, taking the chance to simply be, breathing in the sea air and enjoying the crunch of my boots on the path.
And that's when it happened. So subtle, so instant it would have been easy to miss. But I felt it.
I had set it down. The weight I hadn't realised I was carrying.
I didn't do it intentionally. It made no noise as it left me. There was no photograph to capture the moment. It simply slipped off me. My backpack was still firmly attached to my body, yet it felt somehow lighter, as though large boulders had been removed from it. More than that, my head felt clearer, the dark cobwebs that had been clogging up the edges of my thoughts suddenly swept out.
A smile began to unconsciously form on my face. The furrows on my brow relaxed. I breathed deeply and sighed out loudly. Light, free, happy. The mental burden of worry, guilt, sadness, anger and stress had gently worked its way loose and fallen off me noiselessly, dissipating into nothingness.
I had set the weight down on a path on Northern Ireland's coast. I have set the same weight down on remote paths and deserted beaches around the world. It's what walking does. Every step works a tightly knotted concern loose. Our deeply buried worries and fears gradually free themselves from their trapped places, losing their poisonous power as they do so.
Every walk has a drop off moment. Sometimes it's mere minutes into a walk. On others, it is many miles before the moment happens. But it will happen. And when it does, you can move forward lighter, freer and happier.
It's time to set your weight down.
Join Glamoraks, a community of women who love to walk. We'll help you do it.
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.
This time a year ago, Glamoraks didn't exist. The name was simply a nickname I gave to my glamorous friends who I dragged out walking with me. But an opportunity to appear in a national magazine prompted me into creating something I'd been mulling over for a while - a group to inspire more women to get out walking.
I created the Glamoraks.com website and set up a free Facebook group, with no real idea of what I wanted it to be other than what I had written on the website:
"I want to get more women walking. We're all so busy - careers, being mothers, looking after elderly parents, relationships, life. Walking is the escape that lets you put down the mascara wand and step away from the busy-ness of life. It simplifies everything. It gives you time to think, reflect, talk and connect. It's just you, what you can fit in your pack, the track in front of you and whoever is walking with you. It is low cost, really good exercise, a brilliant way to destress and the best endorphin hit you can get. It makes you happy.
Well since then, the Facebook group has grown to more than 775 members from places as far afield as the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Morocco and South Africa - not to mention a huge contingent from across the UK. It's been featured in Top Sante, Healthy, Good Housekeeping magazines with regular mentions on BBC Radio York. The name as been trademarked. I've written 50 blog posts, shared the voices of others through guests posts and set up a Youtube channel (feel free to subscribe!)
The first Glamoraks walking weekend was held in Malham in November, with 14 women coming together to share a common love of getting outdoors. The second weekend will be held in January 2018 along the Yorkshire Coast - it sold out in less than 24 hours (one spot has become available due to a cancellation so grab it if you want it!)
Personally, this year I've:
I did this alongside running my main business and being a wife and mother with all the never-ending jobs that involves! I have at times been immensely frustrated with not having the time to dedicate myself to Glamoraks more fully and therefore not being able to grow it as quickly as I would like to. But when I look back on the year, I am so proud of how far it has come. What makes me happier still is when I receive messages like this:
'Went for a lovely walk in Hyde Park on Saturday....feel so inspired to just get out there and walk now with Glamoraks on my FB wall. Suddenly not even thinking about the weather.'
'My daughter sent me your article. What a fantastic idea! I adore walking and the outdoors. I have been on my own for almost 15 years and would love the company of others like myself. I'm a young, independent, glamorous woman. Unfortunately my friends don't share my enjoyment of walking or have the time away from their husbands. Would love to hear more about Glamoraks.'
'What a fantastic job you are doing inspiring women to walk - thank you!'
So where is Glamoraks headed in 2018?
Firstly, I hope to have more Glamoraks walking weekends away, run by me as well as qualified mountain leaders. The dates for those will hopefully come out in January. Make sure you subscribe to the newsletter to receive details first.
I would love to grow the community all over the world. So please do share the group with any friends you have you enjoy a good walk, hike or adventure.
But most importantly, I want the Glamoraks community to be able to find others to walk with. I don't want you to have to wait for a walk in your area or on a date that suits. I really want you to to feel confident to go walking whenever you like, either on your own or simply by reaching out to other Glamoraks near you. Perhaps you want to take on a big multi-day walk or charity challenge, but don't have anyone to do it with. Or you want to connect to a regular group of women in your area to go for an impromptu walk or fitness walk or dog walk. Which is why I am looking to create either an app that connects women with others who have similar walking levels and interests, or a membership website that has similar functionality. There is nothing stopping you from doing this right now in the free Facebook group, but it can be hard to track threads as they disappear down in the group. I want to make it easy for everyone to find someone to go walking with.
All of this takes a lot of funding and time, neither of which I have much of. But I am working my hardest to make it happen. So watch this space.
On top of that, I want to take on a big challenge of my own in 2018. I had planned to walk the Cape Wrath Trail Solo, but after speaking to various experts and having spent several nights doing navigation in bogs, I realised it was probably a step too far beyond my capabilities. But I will be doing something, starting with good number of walks in Northumberland over the New Year period.
What about you?
What walking challenge would you like to take on in 2018? It doesn't have to be a BIG challenge. You can simply set yourself a target of how many miles you want to walk. All I would say is that you are more capable than you realise. So stretch yourself slightly more than you believe you are currently capable of, and go for it. A year from now, you will be so pleased that you did.
To help you stay focused, I've created a downloadable poster that you can print off, stick on your wall or fridge and let it serve as a reminder to get your boots on and get outdoors!
GET YOUR POSTER HERE.
Here's to an amazing 2018. Let's make the world happier one step at a time.
I looked at the weather report. Summer temperatures were forecast, with clear skies, no rain and only a bit of wind, despite it being mid-October. Sure, Hurricane Ophelia was on its way, but it wasn't due to arrive for at least 48 hours. How often do you get no rain and warm temperatures in October in Yorkshire? Never. So there was only one thing for it: a wild camp.
Having done it once before, on my own, I decided that this time I'd take a friend but would use a bivvy bag instead of a tent. After all, it was going to be dry.
My lovely friend Sarah said yes, and then wanted to say no, but I dragged her along assuring her that we wouldn't get murdered or fall off a cliff. I didn't tell her that I was slightly apprehensive in case the hurricane did arrive early and we'd get blown into the sea. And having never bivvied before, this was a new experience for me too.....
Parking at the Robin Hood's Bay car park, we followed the Cleveland Way signs north towards Whitby. The sun was already beginning to set behind thinning cloud, casting a pinky-grey softness across the gorgeous coastline. There were plenty of places you could simply unroll a sleeping bag, but we wanted to head slightly off the path. Of course, you can't head far off the path or you will end up in the sea. Some of the cliffs are very unstable so it's important to find a patch of ground that isn't likely to crumble beneath you.
We managed to find a spot roughly a mile or so from Robin Hood's Bay. An outcrop of land jutted away from the path out towards the sea and off to each side of it, were handy little ridges the perfect size for lying on (although it didn't allow for much rolling over in your sleep). Had we rolled off, we would have simply rolled down a gentle bank to a slightly boggy trough, not to our deaths. Always a good thing. But by lying just below the lip of earth, we were protected from the breeze and gave Sarah comfort that we were more hidden from view of potential murderers.
With no tent to pitch, we could immediately get to the important task of having a glass of wine, eating a hearty dinner of roasted nuts and talking shite. We'd brought a game along with us but couldn't quite muster up the energy to play.
By 8pm it was pitch black and our wine was gone. We decided it was time to snuggle into our bivvies. Despite it being an exceptionally warm night for the time of year, it was still getting chilly. Storing our boots in a dry bag to keep any dew off them, we got into our beds fully clothed.
If you haven't bivvied before, it is in essence a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag. Depending on the size bivvy you get, you can fit your sleeping mat into your bivvy along with your sleeping bag. For a pillow, just use a rolled up coat or spare jumper. A hat is a good idea to keep your head warm or a buff that you can pull down over your eyes and top of nose so just your nostrils and mouth are free. Sleeping with socks on will keep your feet warm. Other tips: sleep with a head torch on or near you should you need to get up in the night. Also keep your mobile phone wrapped up somewhere warm to save the battery as it gets drained in the cold.
Without a tent, you lie staring straight up at the stars. We were very lucky to have clear skies for most of it, without the typical accompanying plummeting temperatures. As we lay looking up at the Plough constellation, a shooting star whizzed overhead, so bright and close you could see the orange tail of burning dust glowing brightly. Magical!
Just as we were getting ready to nod off, we noticed a light flashing on the rocks on the nearby cliff. Sarah immediately went into 'we're going to be murdered mode!" It was a bit odd and slightly scary, but I assumed it was probably just cockle pickers or someone down on the beach below. The thing to remember about wild camping is that most people are tucked up in their beds. They don't know you're there and won't be able to see you in the dark anyway. So there really isn't anything to worry about.
After watching the stars for hours, I finally nodded off only to be woken about an hour later to a loud screeching. My guess is a bird of prey had caught something. More star watching ensued as I tried to drift off again. I must have fallen asleep at last as I woke just as the very first glimmer of morning light was starting to leak some colour into the blackness. I watched as the lighthouse in the far distance flashed every five seconds and listened to the waves crash on the rocks far below, while seabirds began their morning chorus. What a wonderful way to wake up.
Sadly, we had to get back to York and real life, so after a quick cup of coffee, we packed up and were ready to go before the sun had even fully risen. Waving good morning to the curious sheep along our path, we made our way back to the car. We were tired, looking a bit scruffy but we'd had a brilliant microadventure. From door to door, we were gone 17 hours, yet we'd made wonderful memories.
Anyone can squeeze a bit of adventure into their life. And you should. Because when you look back on your life, you won't remember those evenings sitting on the sofa watching reality shows on TV. You will remember lying on a cliff watching the stars with a friend.
If you are women - particularly if you are a women who has forgotten how to have adventures because you never have time for yourself - join the free Glamoraks group on Facebook. We will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and into your potential. You just have to love walking and the outdoors and want to rediscover yourself again.
Here's a little video to inspire you.
Want to try wild camping with a bivvy? Here's what you need to pack
Want to meet other women to go wild camping with?Join Glamoraks.
Autumn. It always arrives so suddenly. One minute you're in flip flops. The next, boots and coats make an appearance. The days get shorter, the temperatures drop and all around there is a sense of change. There's something about falling leaves that reminds me of how fast time goes by. Every year it seems to come around more rapidly. Which is all the more reason to get out there and enjoy it while you can. Carpe diem! But if the passage of time isn't enough to motivate you, perhaps this will.
Here are ten reasons why you should put your boots on and go walking this Autumn:
1. Amazing colours
As the leaves turn from green to gold or reds and browns, the scenery becomes a photographer's dream. At times, the views are so splendid that they can render you speechless. But it's more than just a dazzling display. There's something deeply comforting about autumn colours. They ground us and remind us of all things homely and warm.
2. Crunchy sounds and textures
Is there anything more satisfying than crunching through piles of fallen leaves? To be fair, this can be a short lived experience, before the rains arrive and turn everything to mulch. But for those weeks when freshly dropped leaves and seeds litter the pathway, it just feels and sounds adventurous.
3. Perfect temperatures
Autumn is often blessed with bright blue skies, sunny days and a nip in the air. It's not overly hot or cold, just fresh enough to add a touch of colour to your cheeks. You'll feel warm enough walking, without getting hot but will still welcome your thermos of hot chocolate when you stop for a break.
4. A picked lunch
Ok, so perhaps not an entire lunch. But you can certainly supplement your packed lunch by picking blackberries, apples, pears and elderberries. Keep an eye out for sloes, but don't eat them (they're horrid). Take them home and make sloe gin.
5. A scavenger hunt for kids
Getting kids to walk can prove a challenge, but Autumn makes it a LOT more fun as there are so many things for them to find, collect and play with. Acorns and their jaunty hats. Conkers for whacking each other. Helicopter seeds from sycamores. Different leave types to make a leaf collage. It's also a great time to build dens with plenty of dry branches littering the ground.
Squirrels spend Autumn dashing about like crazy things as they stock their winter larder, which makes for entertaining viewing. You'll be lucky to spot a hedgehog, vole or mouse while walking but if you sit quietly in a wood, you might. It's a great time to see deer and gathering flocks of birds ready to make their way south for winter, while pheasants add a splash of colour to the landscape. Be aware that it's deer stalking season in Scotland as well as shooting season for many game birds throughout the UK, so do be careful where you walk. Getting shot may ruin your walk.
7. Fewer midges and bugs
Summer walking can be a battle against the bugs, particularly midges if you're in the Lakes or Scotland. But as Autumn rolls around, the midges disappear leaving you free to walk without being covered in bug-spray.
8. Earlier bed time for wild camping
With the sun setting earlier, you can go wild camping and set up your tent earlier than in the summer. Which means you can get to sleep at a reasonable hour, and wake up early to catch the sunrise. Just make sure you take a warm sleeping bag!
9. Quieter paths
If you can get out midweek, while everyone is back to work after the summer and the kids are back at school, you'll find the paths far quieter, giving you that brilliant feeling of solitude. If you're doing a long distance path, you might find it easier to get accommodation at this time of year too.
10. The perfect time for a pub visit
After a long walk, there is nothing better than getting to a pub just as the chill is starting to set in, grabbing a pint or a warming glass of red wine and sitting in front of the first fires of the season. Bliss.
What do you love about Autumn walking? If you're a woman who love walking or hiking, please join the Glamoraks community. Or simply like the Glamoraks page. on Facebook.
We recently ran a Glamoraks Photo Competition in which I asked women to share a photo from one of their walks, with an accompanying statement that completed this sentence: I walk because.....
Their images and words were beautiful and inspiring, so I've compiled them into this video. Have a watch and then let me know in the comments what your reason for walking is. Hopefully the video will inspire you to get walking too!
If you'd like to meet other women to go walking with, join the global online community here.
Next weekend I will be heading to a festival. I'll be sleeping in a tiny tent in a field with a bunch of strangers. I won't know a soul there. I'll be doing some activities I've not tried before. I have no idea what to expect. If I'm honest, there's a big part of me that wants to pull out of it. But I am going. Here's why:
Because it's too easy to stay comfortable. As we get older, we get more fearful, more used to creature comforts, less confident in our ability to try new things. And one day when I'm on my deathbed, I don't want to look back on my life and be unable to pick out memorable moments because I had lost my sense of adventure. Let's face it, no-one remembers the daily commute, that epic Netflix binge watching session, that 20 millionth load of laundry they put on. They remember the things that made them feel something profound.
Not all of those profound feelings are good. Some of the toughest moments in life are the things we remember most vividly. But the funny thing about humans is our ability to endure challenges and then reframe them into something positive. Unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you never know what you are capable of. There could be a whole other side to you that you don't even realise you have. It's just waiting to be freed. And that could be a magical discovery that changes the rest of your life.
So I may not enjoy this festival weekend. Or I may have the best time ever. But unless I go and experience it, I will never know.
This September I invite you to join me in #SayYesSept. It's your chance to step outside of your comfort zone and take on a challenge. It doesn't have to be huge or epic, just something that pushes you out of 'being comfortable'. It might not be a big enough challenge for you to even remember in a year's time, but each time you try something that pushes your comfort level, you will find yourself feeling a little bit stronger, a bit more confident, a bit braver. And each step will add up to a bigger, fuller, more exciting life that one day you will look back on and say: I did all of that!
Here's a list of things you could try this month to kickstart the journey to a lifetime of epic memories:
1. Go for a longer walk than you normally do
2. Go for a walk on your own
3. Go for a walk with a stranger. Use the Glamoraks Facebook Group to find someone in your area.
4. Climb a really big hill with incredible views
5. Go on a multi day hike
6. Carry what you need on your back for an overnight hike
7. Wild camp with someone
8. Wild camp on your own
9. Stay in a hostel, sharing a room with strangers
10. Catch public transport to a place you've never been - then explore using a map
11. Go to a group event where you don't know anyone
12. Organise a group walk for others - use the Glamoraks group for this too!
13. Try a new activity that you've not done before
14. Sign up to a charity challenge
15. Set a target to walk 5 miles a day for a month (or ten!)
16. Put a date in the diary two years from now to do that big walk you've always wanted to do - like the PCT, the Camino de Santiago, the Inca Trail, the Coast to Coast, climbing Kilimanjaro or reaching Everest Base Camp. Then tell people that you plan on doing it. Then start planning. Once you commit a date and tell people, it forces you to take action.
For some adventurers, these might seem like very tame goals. But for people who have yet to push their bravery or comfort limits in any way, these will seem difficult. Choose whatever level is right for you. But just make the decision to use this September to say yes more. If an opportunity comes your way, don't hesitate. Say yes and figure out the rest later. If you are a woman who constantly puts other first - kids, parents, partner, work, commitments - it's time to say: Nope, it's my time.
So are you in? If so, be sure to share what you will be doing over on the Facebook group or on social media. Just use the hashtag #SayYesSept and tag me @Glamoraks so that I can keep track. If enough people get involved I'll turn it into a video of experiences, so be sure to share pics or short videos about what you've done.
Let's get out there and start living! You only get one life. Make it count.
If you are a woman who loves walking and taking pictures, then listen up!
To celebrate World Photo Day on 19 August, Glamoraks is running a photo competition throughout the month of August. This is just for a bit of fun to find out why you walk and where you walk. Seeing beautiful pictures of places to walk or happy people out walking helps to motivate others to get out there and do it more often.
Here's how to enter:
So get walking and snapping!