Mindful walking in nature

Iman shares her experiences of tackling anxiety through walking in nature

I'm Iman, a 23-year-old from London, currently doing a master’s degree in international development, thanks to the support of the Aziz Foundation scholarship. I love physical activities like running, mountaineering, and cycling however hiking in particular significantly helped my mental health.  


Dealing with Anxiety  

Three years ago, during the pandemic, I developed high levels of anxiety, and I found myself withdrawing from my usual activities. At the time, I was learning a lot about the Japanese perspective on our relationship with nature particularly focusing on mindfulness and I realised the positive impact it could have. So, I turned to hiking to escape London’s busyness and ground my thoughts. Through this journey, I've learned that consistent care, community support, and time spent in nature are so important for our mental health. After each hike, I feel like I've accomplished something meaningful. And in those moments, I'm not consumed by my phone or social media. Instead, I'm fully present in my environment.  

On these walks I learnt that we're connected to nature in a deep way – so much so that it's hard to draw lines between us and the environment. We're part of nature, and nature is part of us. Research even shows the mental and physical benefits of interacting with nature, whether it's through touching a tree or simply staring at images of flowers. Spending time outdoors acts as a recharge, restoring balance to both our bodies and minds. This holds particular significance in London, where the hustle culture can often leave us feeling disconnected.  

Drawing from what I had learnt and experienced, I founded the charity Pangea—a walking group for people of colour, primarily focusing on mindfulness. Inspired by the supercontinent, I chose the name Pangea to symbolise unity for London. There can be a lot of division and isolation in London and Pangea serves as a platform for individuals from diverse cultures and communities to come together to build genuine connections through the simple act of walking.  

The group initially began by organising walks through Eventbrite to connect a diverse outdoor community and to create a sense of safety in numbers. As a solo Muslim woman, hiking in the countryside can feel unsafe at times. Unfortunately, I've encountered a few negative experiences which made me realise the importance of walking in a group.  


Our walks

Our most recent walk was in Regent's Park; it gave me a fresh perspective on the park. We have binoculars and use bird identification books and apps (we saw great spotted woodpeckers, a peregrine falcon, and bright green ring-necked parakeets). Other walks featured are Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Box Hill, and Denbies Estate – it’s important to me that the walks are as accessible as possible for everyone from London. 

The age range for Pangea’s walks typically falls between 18 and 35 years old. We've infused an interest in mindfulness, outdoor fashion and creativity into our group, which makes walking so much more than people expect. It's great to see how this generation expresses their creativity visually, especially through fashion inspired by nature. Nature is a huge source of creativity, and I love seeing people inspired by their surroundings during our walks, many of which are surprisingly close to them.  

Our attendance at Pangea’s walks fluctuates with the seasons, ranging from smaller winter walks to over 50 people in summer. To ensure everyone's safety, we've had to cap the number of attendees, but it also builds more meaningful relationships in the long run.  


Go London! Young entrepreneurs award 

As my charity has expanded, I realised the need for support in the next steps. That's when I applied for a young entrepreneur's program, generously funded by the Mayor of London, Sport England, and the London Marathon Foundation. 

Through this initiative, I've gained training in business basics, funding strategies, and marketing methods. I'm deeply grateful for this opportunity, and I aspire to pay it forward by helping train other young individuals to become leaders in the outdoor community, whether it's leading walks, bird watching expeditions, foraging events and more. 

It's important to me that we uplift racial minorities in this space because, despite our presence, we often face barriers in being included in the outdoor community. In the next phase, my focus will be on addressing this gap and supporting people of colour to access opportunities and training.  



As a British Muslim with Pakistani heritage, I've naturally drawn many Muslim individuals to our cause. During our walks, I incorporate prayer breaks, a practice not often seen in traditional walking groups. It's a simple yet significant inclusion that is often overlooked elsewhere. However, our group is open to everyone; I strive for our walks to be as diverse as possible, allowing us to connect with people from various backgrounds and communities. It's essential to me that our group feels visible and accepted, both online and on the walks.  

My mum is a member of the Ramblers and her involvement with the Ramblers walks has played a significant role in my love for hiking. We frequently rely on the Ramblers Routes and other resources provided by the organisation's website when mapping out the hikes together. There's still a misconception that the Ramblers cater primarily to middle-aged white individuals. It’s great to see all the work that the organisation is doing to change this. I believe the Ramblers have the potential to engage a younger audience and support a more diverse community of hikers.  

Looking ahead, my mission is to keep bringing together people of colour in outdoor spaces and taking steps toward ensuring that walking groups across the UK are places where everyone feels welcome and can enjoy the benefits of nature without any barriers. I'm also excited about seeing and encouraging more diverse representations in outdoor-related campaigns and media. It's time to broaden the scope of who is seen as part of this community, particularly the countryside. With the support of organisations like the Ramblers, I'm confident we can achieve this.  


For more information on Pangea, follow Pangea.ldn on Instagram or visit pangeawalks.com 

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