It is all in the simplicity of the title and it does what it says on the tin, walking can provide clarity!
Set upinlate 2019 ‘Clarity Walks’ is a social enterprise venture set up by Matt Wallace, with aspirations of improving mental health and wellbeing through ‘no phone’ nature walks. For Matt the Coronavirus could not have happened at a worse time, trying to establish a new venture that involved connecting with people through walking, even if it was socially distanced. Two prolonged periods of lockdown have been an endurance event, particularly when the nation was being asked to ‘home-school’ and working from home. This significantly increased technological use and contact, mental health concerns are now even more at the forefront and need to be addressed.
Group HR Manager Chris Neale went for a socially distanced walk with Matt Wallace to find out more about the inspiration behind ‘Clarity Walks’ and the benefits of leaving your phone behind.
‘Clarity Walks’ was created using the methods that helped Matt recover from depression in 2017. At that time Matt was consumed by his phone, feeling very anxious, exposed to negativity and was wasting hours each day. At some point in our lives everyone has spells of feeling down, but depression is more than just spending a few days feeling sad or unhappy. Depression can make you feel persistently sad and down for weeks or months at a time. While some people believe that depression is trivial or not a genuine health problem, it is a real condition that affects around one in 10 people over the course of their lives.
As part of Matt’s recovery, he investigated ways that he could manage his phone better and developed methods that put him back in control of his mental health. One of those methods was walking in nature without his phone. By doing so and over time Matt began to feel more present and connected to nature and those around him. This helped Matt improve his mental health and well-being whilst bringing back focus to his life. Over the years Matt has refined his methods and created the UKs first ‘No Phone nature walks’. Matt tells us “it’s my mission to help people improve their mental-wellbeing by managing technology better, getting out in nature and connecting with others. We have become consumed with the need for social media, to be constantly updated, but not everything we read or see in social media is true and the constant perceived perfections can be damaging to us”.
With a focus around improving mental health, initial thoughts are around the skills required to deal with some difficult topics broached during the walks but when asked about what was discuss on walks Matt smiled and replied “anything and everything! The purpose of the walks is about having some time to forget about the negative influences, enjoy the company of others and the environment around us without the distraction or need for technology”. Having walked and talked with Matt he is clearly an inspiring and engaging person whos’ previous experiences and education enable him to cover a wide range of topics from the environment, ecosystems, exercise, nutrition and even the challenges setting up small businesses. Matt was also keen to impress that whist there are many topics which negatively impact on individual’s health, there are many more which combined with nature, can have a positive impact. The key message is ‘it’s good to talk’!
Another of Matt’s passions which aligned with Orion’s values is that of inclusiveness and diversity. Matt reiterates that Mental Health concerns can affect anyone and tells us that ‘Clarity Walks’ offers opportunities for all ages and abilities. The routes used are all accessible and graded in terms of ease and distance, as part of a group or 1-2-1 so it’s very much up to the individuals. Matt’s most recent success has been ‘Clarity Kids’ and was keen to point out that studies show that around 4% of children in the UK between the ages of five and 16 are depressed or anxious. Mental health really does affect everyone, but the lockdowns have been hard on children and young adults and this is just one supporting strategy which can be adopted, creating a different path and perspective.
In the last two years Matt can be proud of his achievements, Thousands of people have enjoyed his nature walks without the pressures of technology with approximately 20% of those attending now confirming they have reconnected with nature and experienced an inner peace it offers. Matt is also receiving referrals from GPs, counsellors and mental health charities who recognise the health benefits of the walks. As an HR Manager it was also positive to hear how engaging with ‘Clarity Walks’ assisted people to return to work following a period of mental health issues.
Now very enthusiastic about the future Matt was excited to tell us about this latest project and venturing into the franchise world. ‘Clarity Walks’ now has a foundation and template for success which can be easily established in any part of the UK. If you are keen to join/lead walks or contribute as a sponsor to assist promote mental health and wellbeing or help set up a Clarity Walk franchise, further information is available by contacting Matt directly byemail firstname.lastname@example.org or through the webpage www.claritywalk.co.uk.
Depression:Is a real condition that affects around one in 10 people over the course of their lives. It impacts people of all genders and ages – including children. Studies show that around 4% of children in the UK between the ages of five and 16 are depressed or anxious. (NHS Inform,2021)