Cat's story

A young woman standing close to a Cowal Way sign

On and off since my early teens, I have experienced mental health problems. I will probably always be in a state of recovery, but walking and getting outdoors really helps lift my mood on my darkest days.

In my early teens, I turned to food and exercise as a way of controlling the depression and emptiness I was feeling. This led to being diagnosed with an eating disorder and resulted in a hospital stay for several months.

I needed to find healthier coping strategies and walking is one of them.

When I moved to Edinburgh recently, I heard about my local Ramblers group from a colleague. I was keen to join as a way of meeting new people and sharing walking experiences with others.

After years of abusing my body, I am learning now to appreciate and praise it – to thank it for enabling me to hike. My legs can take me places, but only if I treat my body right.

I walked the Cowal Way by myself recently, when I was not having a great time mentally, and the trip left me feeling empowered and proud. I’ve also walked the Berwickshire Coastal route. Getting away for a couple days, exploring new places and walking helped my mental health a lot.

A young woman standing on top of a valley of hills, arms outstretched 

Whether it’s stress, heartbreak or my depression becoming too much for me, getting outdoors makes the world of difference to me. Remembering that a walk can make me feel better is often what will push me out the door.

Walking helps ease my anxiety and allows me to meet new people.

I’m open about mental health and am happy to open up to others more if the opportunity arises within a group walk. I recently delivered a talk about my journey with mental health at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

I am happy to answer any questions about what I have been and am going through. Mental health is such an important topic to talk about and should be spoken about more.

I’d say to anyone considering joining a local walking group, don’t be afraid, people are so welcoming.

If I hadn’t discovered the beauty of walking, I would not have seen some of the beautiful sights I have seen.  It is a great way to get your walking confidence up and get you out and about.

Being outside is vital to our physical health and mental wellbeing and this may sound cheesy, but it can help us all become much more in touch with our beautiful planet together.

Cat is a member of the Edinburgh Young Ramblers. You can start walking with a local Ramblers group in your area. Find a walk near you.