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Walking Solo – Durham University Researchers Encourage Alone Time in Nature

by | Dec 14, 2022 | News

“Solitude is the time when you are not interacting with another person, either in person, on the phone, or online.”

How do you feel about solitude?

Is it a rare experience?

Something you fear, avoid and associate with loneliness?

Maybe you relish those peaceful moments to yourself?

Spending time in solitude can be relaxing and restorative – if we welcome it positively. That’s the message behind Dr Thuy-vy Nguyen’s research at Durham University’s department of Psychology.

We have been talking to Thuy-vy about the potential of physical activity to make the time people spend alone more positive. We discussed the immense popularity of walking in County Durham (Active Lives 2020/21). But we also acknowledged that not everyone feels safe to walk alone, especially in the dark winter months.

So often, physical activity is promoted for its social benefits. But for many of us, physical activity presents a much-needed opportunity for some restorative alone time. Especially if it gets us outside and engaged with nature. And especially as we move into the busy (and sometimes overwhelming) festive season.

Using their knowledge of the research – and our practitioner perspective – Thuy-vy and her team have put together some handy tips to help people use their time alone positively for getting active. Read the tips below and you can also download and share the solo-walking infographic.

Could you share these solo-walking tips with your colleagues, community, or service users?

Download the solo walking infographic to share with others.

Create your own solitude

Our solitude is better when we welcome it. Think about the benefits that solitude brings you: some say it brings peace, others say freedom. Whatever about solitude that makes you happy, nature can make it better.

Plan a safe path

Safety is important when we explore nature space. You might prefer walking during the day. You might prefer a well-tended space. You might prefer seeing other people. Plan ahead to help you feel safe during your walk.

Prepare for your journey

A short 15-minute walk in nature can be just the thing you need, but you might prefer to go a bit longer. Knowing your path helps you prepare for the journey. Is the path the right terrain for you? Is the ground too wet? And of course, make sure you bring the right shoes!

Tell a friend

You might want to let someone know when you plan to take your solo walks. Solitude is better when we know that someone will have our back when we need them. Seeking solitude does not mean we have to feel completely cut off from the world.