Today I attended the launch event of Walking for Wellbeing at Goldsmiths and am super excited about joining in the workshops and walks over the next few weeks. Walking For Wellbeing was set up by my amazing friend and Department Student Co-ordinator buddy Helena, and supported by our History lecturer John Price and the Goldsmiths Annual Fund. The project aims to help Goldsmiths students improve their wellbeing whilst also learning about London and it’s History through a series of workshops and walks planned by the students involved.
Walking for Wellbeing was a fantastic idea developed by Helena during our History module Walking Through London’s History, taught John, which taught students about how walking can be used as a research method for History and allowed us to engage in some historical walks. Part of our assessment criteria for the module was to produce a 1500 word blog post on the topic of… well… walking through London’s history. For my own blog post, the Walking (and the) Dead, I chose to combine my love of walking in my local cemetery with historical inquiry into London’s history. I absolutely loved the opportunity to engage in such an innovative module and write about something I was really genuinely interested in, in a medium which I found more accessible than essays. However, one thing that I did find frustrating was that as it was part of an assessment which had very specific criteria, we had to stick within the confines of word limits and module objectives. All very boring bureaucratic processes that restricted us from really being able to sink our teeth into the subject properly. I had so many ideas of things I wanted to talk about and no space to do so! Helena’s solution to this was to start up her own side blog, about her particular passion; walking, history and mental health. From there, she took her idea to John who encouraged Helena to apply for the GS’s Annual Fund to set up a walking project over the summer term and here we find ourselves today!
As the module finished in December and I became swamped by work, I started to forget all the ideas I had come up with for walking inspired blog posts. But attending the launch event this afternoon in the lovely sunshine with cool people, coffee and cake, reminded me of those ideas as well as inspiring new ones. The launch event was great for exploring in a little more depth not only about the project, but about the link between walking and wellbeing. In addition to Helena and John, our lovely Welfare & Diversity officer at the SU, Tara, came along to talk a bit more about how innovative projects like Walking for Wellbeing are great for starting more dialogues about mental health and empowering students to maintain good relationships with themselves. Tara reminisced about a time, which I’m sure many other students might also remember, of being stuck in the library working tirelessly on an essay at 3am. She recounted how exhausting it was during deadline season and how quickly her ability to take care of herself disappeared. When you have multiple 3000 word essays, numerous exams, and a 8000-10,000 word dissertation which your entire degree now rests upon, taking care of yourself can be one of your last concerns. Yet, walking for Tara, and of course for others, provided such a sweet escape from that crushing workload. Not only did it provide an opportunity to get out and stretch her legs in the cool night breeze, but it also helped to stimulate her thoughts.
Whilst this idea of walking and stimulation is a key component of walking as a historical methodology, Tara also gently reminded us that walking should not just be about increasing your work productivity. Walking is often represented as an effective tool for increasing the wellbeing of Londoners, but in a way which is intrinsically linked to also improving their labour productivity as workers. For example, in an article entitled ‘Commuting by Walking or Cycling “can boost mental wellbeing”‘ produced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014), NICE reports that
“Data from a series of long-running studies showed that active travel improved mental wellbeing in a number of areas such as concentration, the ability to make decisions and enjoy normal daily activities, and that it reduced the feeling of being constantly under strain”.
However, as Tara argued walking should also be a learning process which reminds us that we are worth more than just our levels of academic or labour productivity and which provides an avenue to maintain that good relationship with ourselves as well as foster positive routines for self care. This, I feel, is a really important part of Walking for Wellbeing as although History plays an integral element in the project I also know from conversations that other students were having that this idea of walking socially was a crucial factor for them. Walking, or indeed any type of travelling, around London is a highly stressful experience. People are rude, everywhere is loud and overcrowded, everything is fast, and London is so vast that the terror of getting lost is very real. These factors can be extremely hindering to people with mental health conditions, as well as other types of disabilities, from feeling like they can’t leave their house to go for a walk. I know from experience that whilst I might really want to go outside I am anxious about going alone or getting lost in an unfamiliar area. Walking for Wellbeing therefore provides a supportive and inclusive environment for students to go on walking adventures together whilst simultaneously delving into history.
In taking inspiration from Helena, I decided that this blog could provide a great place to blog about our walking adventures as part of Walking for Wellbeing, as well as any little walking adventures I go on with Achilles. Not only do I love exploring my local area with Achilles, now that he has become less anxious/over-excited about going out, but I am super enthused to be able to delve deeper into some of my original walking ideas which included expanding upon my original work to do with walking, cemeteries and London’s history; a Sarah Waters ‘the Night Watch’ inspired walk in South London; and the intersections of walking and disability.
So saddle up and get yourselves pumped for some future walking adventures.
I hope to see you along the way, as we twist and turn throughout the grassy concrete labyrinth of London.
For more information about:
- Walking for Wellbeing: https://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=10783
- Helena’s blog: https://walkingthroughmydepression.wordpress.com/
- The wonderful Tara: https://twitter.com/TaraMariwany
- And the great John Price: https://twitter.com/JpaPrice