art semi abstract landscape painting mental health

Nurtured By Nature

Sunshine - Fresh Air - Nature

The benefits of walking for mental health - by a landscape artist.

A friend told me a story recently. Her optician asked her how many hours a day she spent looking at screens. She said about 12 hours. She lied. Truth was, and she was embarrassed to say this, she spends almost every minute, from the time she wakes until she goes to bed, with her eyes on a screen. For work, for pleasure, for shopping, for socialising - everything is done via our screens.

No wonder she has eye strain.

Then she told me, the only time of the day she is not looking at a screen is when she is going for a walk - we were taking a walk in the beautiful countryside near my home at the time.

As a landscape artist I feel the need to get out into nature as much as possible. I love to travel by bike, but I know the best way to see the landscape is to walk - and stop often to take in the view and to take a few photos in preparation for my next painting.

So that got me thinking about the benefits of walking. It can be a time away from tech - although I do take a lot of photos when I am walking so I always have my phone with me, but how much more beneficial it is to put our phones away and stare at the scenery. Notice the wild flowers, the blossom on the trees, the heron flying overhead. Get out into green spaces, parks and forests, or blue spaces, by a river or the sea. Many studies have shown just 10 minutes spent in nature can reduce our stress levels.

Walking, like any exercise, increases the feel-good hormone. dopamine which has a positive impact on our mood. Getting outside, as opposed to going to the gym or exercising at home means we get fresh air which raises oxygen levels in the brain which increases serotonin - a neurotransmitter that alters mood. 

Walking with a friend is a great way to socialise - and for women there is safety in numbers. I live in a relatively safe area, but there are places near home where I will not walk alone. I would love to walk in beautiful, secluded woodlands, just me and nature, but that is not a safe, so going out with friends or family is the only option. Joining a walking group is a great idea, a way to meet like-minded people.

As a landscape artist I need to go out into the countryside, to soak up the scenery. I don't paint outdoors, nor do I paint directly from photos, but I know the places I walk have a huge influence on my paintings. The sights, sounds, colours and feel of a place get into my sub-conscious and emerge on the canvas in my next painting session.

There is no substitute for getting outside, it is good for our bodies and minds and creativity. I certainly won't be swapping nature for the gym any time soon.

Art semi abstract landscape painting

Work in progress - blossom trees.

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