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A walking challenge to raise funds reminded Paul of ways to keep well

‘Walking is good for the soul’ is something you often hear. For Paul Hogg, his weekend tackling the 70-mile Cumbrian Way offered a physical challenge in beautiful scenery, with the chance to think about mental wellbeing, too.

And the 52-year-old would whole-heartedly recommend the combination of walking and raising money for a cause which you’re passionate about.

For Paul, who is director of corporate affairs at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, his fundraising for Mind in Bradford started with a work visit to the offices on Manor Row in Bradford, where he was really impressed by the wellness activities, and by the Sanctuary safe space service for people in crisis.

“I was struck by how a small thing can sometimes make a big difference and wanted to help play my part in supporting local people,” he says. Mind in Bradford figures show that £22 funds an hour of Sanctuary counselling for someone in crisis, very often as an alternative to hospital, and just £5 covers the cost of a wellbeing induction for a new client.

He raised an amazing £1,140 – far beyond his £500 target – but the experience brought home to Paul some of the ways to help both physical and mental wellbeing.

Paul undertook this 70-mile hike through beautiful Lakeland scenery with his brother-in-law and his cousin. That company throughout the four days made him reflect on the importance of friendship.

“Everyone has mental health and has to look after their physical and mental wellbeing. In terms of spending some time together it was a great opportunity to chat, reminisce, learn new things about each other,” he says.

“It brought home to me how important friendships are to wellbeing and being able to listen to people and share experiences. I think that goes for anybody who has had mental health problems in their life, too.

“Social isolation and other problems that we experience in our modern world are difficult but if we can spend time with family or friends, friendship can be a real wellbeing tool.”

Chatting to other walkers, locals or tourists in cafes or during the route was a lovely experience, too, and Paul describes research which says that chatting to strangers, making an emotional connection, can have a positive effect on mood.

And a hard climb up Stake Pass on the route, with a tricky walk down on a boulder path, gave him insights into the idea of focus.

“Walking down from Stake Pass, over a couple of miles really gave me a sense of perspective and focus. My mind was really clear, concentrating on the moment, on each step, it was almost a mindfulness exercise in itself,” Paul says.

“When you’re walking eight or nine hours a day, carrying a rucksack weighing 25lb, it’s physically challenging.

“One evening, we had had a long day and arrived in Keswick and left our rucksacks at the hotel and decided to go into town.

Not having the rucksack on my back was like having a burden lifted, and it made me think of mental wellbeing – if you are carrying a burden on your shoulders you need to release it somehow and focus on what it’s like without it.”

The sense of remoteness in the Lake District allowed Paul to reflect on feelings, and how the modern world can sometimes not allow us to pause for thought.

“I rarely thought about work being out in the Lakes!” Paul says. “Being out in the open and not having all the considerations of modern life made me appreciate what I have got. It was that opportunity to unwind and get some release.”

He adds: “There was a personal sense of achievement at the end of the walking, a job well done, but most of all I’ll remember the little moments, the friendships and the scenery – and you can’t put a price on that.”

Paul’s advice to anyone considering a fundraising challenge is: “Just do it and see what comes of it. Don’t set yourself or anyone else unrealistic expectations. Choose a charity that resonates with you and be brave.

“You’ll be surprised at the generosity of people you know (and don’t know) who share your passion for a good cause.”

Posted on: 12th June 2020