My guest blogger today is Hayley Gillard, who can often be found barefoot in the Great Outdoors.
"Yes, a lot like you, Stewart," I hear you cry.
But the difference being, Hayley is a professional. I'm a mere amateur when it comes to going barefoot.
Which is why I invited Hayley to explain, from a professional's point of view, why having bare feet is good for our bodies and our minds.
Over to Hayley:
I’m an Ecotherapist. I work outdoors helping people who are stressed out, overwhelmed and exhausted. You can find me hiking up a mountain whilst doing a life coaching session, teaching someone mindfulness whilst toasting a marshmallow or meditating with a group of stressed out employees as part of my employee wellness packages.
I also run a social enterprise called Wild Goose Wellbeing and we use nature as therapy to help people improve their emotional health. We do things like campfire cooking, natural art and craft and bushcraft and we also lose our shoes and socks and explore. We explore our physical location and the beautiful surroundings, but we also explore our senses, our emotions and meet a load of new people too!
Most of us have gone barefoot (on the beach or in the garden) before, and we probably all spent lots of our childhood barefoot. But, as adults we often see it as a bit woo woo or even dangerous. Whilst I’m not advocating you remove shoes from your life completely (I LOVE SHOES – especially gorgeous heels when I’m out for dinner), what I am proposing is that you spend some more quality time baring your soles (pun intended – sorry)!
I want to tell you 5 reasons why I think you should go barefoot more!
3. It feels silly! - Yes, this really is a benefit! You may get a few odd looks, so what!? This is less of an issue if you go barefoot walking with friends as you will just laugh it off. I’ve got to the stage now where I encourage people to join in rather than feel awkward about their stares! But seriously – feeling silly and then laughing about it is great! It’s good to laugh at life’s awkward moments, we spend far too long being serious and stressed out. Laughing is refreshing, it makes you feel good, releases those feel good endorphins and what a great talking point to share next time someone asks you what you got up to at the weekend!
4. You develop great relationships – People are intrigued when someone is barefoot! It’s amazing! People are either flabbergasted that you are barefoot when it’s cold/muddy/raining/on your own or they are seriously impressed and wish they could join you! Invite them! Who knows, you may meet your future best friend/husband/wife! I go barefoot walking with friends and family and it’s great to start conversations based on the present moment rather than asking about someone’s (often stressful) week! Our Barefoot Club is designed to be social, fun and about meeting new people. What a great shared common interest!
5. It reduces stress – Not only is being outdoors, trying something new, meeting new people and being barefoot great for our wellbeing but barefoot walking actually reduces stress levels. You have lots of acupressure points on your feet which are linked to anxiety, stress and mental wellbeing and walking on your bare soles stimulates all of these. Our feet have over 200,000 nerve endings in them, as we feel the ground, its texture and temperature we become much more aware of the earth beneath us and can feel grounded and calmer.
I do sometimes get asked by people who have fears around hurting their foot or picking up some nasties. Of course there is a chance you will stand on something sharp! But because you are barefoot (and your senses are heightened) you are much more aware of the surface of the floor in front of you.
The more you barefoot walk, the more you train the nerve endings in your feet about what ‘pain’ feels like, you develop a resilience in the feet and your feet become sturdier. I’ve been barefoot walking for years and have not had an injury yet. The chances of picking up something horrible through your feet are so slim this point only deserves one sentence! You won’t lick your feet after you’ve barefoot walked and you’ll be watching where you are going. You’ll be fine!
I encourage you all to take your shoes and socks off, find some grass, soft mud or sand to start with and just give it a go! Send me photo! If you’re in Yorkshire you’d be very welcome to join us at our monthly Barefoot Club or maybe you’d like to walk the Dales Way barefoot with us later in 2017!
You can find out more about my ecotherapy work at www.hayleygillard.com and www.wildgoosecic.co.uk and connect with me on social media using the links below: