Walk Inniú | Blog
Walk Inniú Counselling Psychotherapy Outdoors is David Staunton’s response to provide people in Ireland with an introduction and access to Ecotherapy.
Counselling, Psychotherapy, Dublin, Outdoors, David Satunton, Grief, Stress, Anxiety, Sexuality, Low Mood, depression, relationships, bereavement,
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Walk and Talk Green Therapy in the Dublin Mountains

 

 

With the sun still low in the sky across the Dublin Mountains on a recent bright and frosty morning in Massey Woods, it was my great pleasure to yet again welcome a hardy group of walkers who took part in this year’s ‘Ecotherapy Walk and Talk’ as part of South Dublin County Council’s ‘Social Inclusion Week 2017’.

 

As always, I felt privileged to have facilitated such a wonderful walk.  Despite it being winter, there was still a lot of green to be enjoyed, particularly from the holly trees which stood out so dramatically against the crisp blue sky.  Although I know this old city of ours pretty well, I always seem to learn about yet another favourite walking spot from participants when they speak about their own favourite walk and this group was no different as they reminded me of the natural healing that is available to all of us.  Walk and Talk participants always have something positive to say about how they benefit from their self-prescribed ‘Green Therapy’.

 

So what are you waiting for?

 

Write yourself your very own ‘Green Prescription’ this winter, wrap up well, wear plenty of layers and take some time to notice the ‘other-than-human’ nature that surrounds you.

You might be surprised how much it benefits you…

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Earth Hour

Walk Inniú becomes Walk Anocht!!! (Walk Today becomes Walk Tonight)

‘After Dark’ – Ecotherapy Hedge School

 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

to We will meet at the Parkgate St main entrance to Phoenix Park from 7.45 (To leave at 8.00pm sharp).

 

This years Earth Hour takes place on Saturday the 25th of March 2017.

Walk Inniú is delighted to have been invited by the ‘Into the Night’ project and Valentine Seymour of London’s Farr Institute of Health Informatics to facilitate our Ecotherapy Hedge School as a mark of solidarity for action on climate change.

This free ‘Hedge School’ will include a silent mindful hour together outdoors to acknowledge our own process in relation to the continued destruction of our planet and will take place in the quietness of the park where we can collectively rest in the dark natural space.

Light pollution affects both us humans and other-than-human nature.

Join us on the 25th of March where we will explore how our wellbeing is affected by “excessive, poorly directed or unnecessary artificial light at night” (Into the Night). By attending, you will be taking part in an international survey which will further enhance our understanding of how light pollution not alone is a cause of climate change but is bad for our health.

Make sure you wear warm suitable clothing and footwear(keeping the weather in mind) and note that the responsibility of walking in the park in the darkness is your own. (This event is open to adults only 18+).

Do it for yourself, do it for the planet… you are one and the same!

David

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Brighton Beach

Brighten Beach, Brighton – In Memory of Martin Jordan 1967 – 2017

Today a sun (for there are many), warms my tired face through thin glass of half-opened regency.

I smell sea, I see sea (if I contort).

Most of Martin’s body has spent its first night in dark clay,

(There is very little sunlight in dark clay but there is some).

Can he feel the sun, any son anywhere?

Perhaps his essence now experiences all the suns (and sons) in the universes.

 

I am of the flesh and blood (and spirit) of one who is long buried in the chalky clay of this place.

Do bodies in the ground get to know each other? (Stupid question… of course they do).

Like a sneaky, risk taking rhizome,

projecting, tunnelling, confusing, coping and skulking through sea, earth and sad soulful spirit,

I will meet bits of them both on Foynes Street, the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster, some unholy wholly magical well hidden on Achill Island or in the place where the Welsh live.

And although many might want to piss on their graves.

Members of my family who are still hurting and angry.

or,

The selfish, lost, insecure trumpoline who reigns in another more moneyed place since yesterday.

or,

The blinded, deafened, worshipping angels who would never try to understand the achievements of either of the dead men I mourn.  (I am (in part) part of their achievement).

 

I leave here now, knowing that at least there are two deadish and very special human-being seeds in the ground of this place.

(And everybody knows that if you love and water deadish human-being seeds, amazing human-being trees will grow full of leafy love with nutritious healing fruit).

Why? Because a root must find water (we were told this at Martins funeral).

But remember, water will always find a route.

 

Isn’t life really fucking trickey, twisty and tasty?

 

David Staunton
21/01/2017

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Wexford Walking Trail logo

Ecotherapy Walks with Wexford Walking Trail

 

I am truly happy to be heading to the scenic south-east at the kind invitation of the excellent Wexford Walking Trail collaboration to facilitate four ecotherapy walks this November.  Wexford is a county which I have many fond connections with.

 

On the 5th of November, I look forward to walking with a group in Courtown Woods in the morning and Ferns in the afternoon, whilst on the 12th  of November the ecotherapy walks will be in Carrigbyrne and Lacken.  (Booking your place is essential and to do so please contact Mary on 086 163334).

 

It is the intention of the Wexford Walking Trail organisation ‘to enhance the visitor experience and raise awareness of the quality, diversity and location of our trails’.  This intention and ethos is of course ‘music to my ears’ as it helps to heighten our connection with nature and explore the bonds between not only ‘people and place’ but ‘human and other than human nature’.  Many of the benefits of being outdoors in nature are fairly obvious in that it increases both our physical and psychological wellbeing but increased awareness and respect for all forms of nature is the essence of ecotherapy and ecopsychology.

 

As anybody who has sauntered their way through a pile of autumn leaves knows, there is a beautiful truth and honesty in nature and it so often encourages us to connect in with a more authentic version of ourselves.   For all its beauty and magnificence, nature does not try to impress us humans, it is just…there.  When we recall past wild winter storms, we are reminded that nature is harsh at times and may leave us acknowledging our own sense of fear and awe or perhaps evoke feelings of powerlessness when we are faced with its indiscriminate energy and might.

 

If we ignore the needs of nature or attempt to subjugate the ‘other than human nature’ that surrounds us, not alone do we cause untold harm to our planet but we do so at the cost of much of our own personal health and wellbeing.  Why?  Simply because as human beings we too are an integral part of nature.

 

I look forward to meeting you on our ecotherapy walks in Wexford and I could not agree more with Wexford Walking Trail when they suggest that we… ‘Let nature lead the way’.

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SDCC1

South Dublin County Council – Health & Wellbeing Week 2016

Health and Wellbeing Week
Seachtain na Sláinte agus na Folláine – 12•••18 September 2016

SDCC2

   Eco Therapy Walks
   Massey Woods, Kilakee Co Dublin.

Do you feel that your life is getting busier and more complicated by the day? Join David Staunton, Counselling Psychotherapist and founder of the Walk Inniú Eco Therapy Hedge School for a relaxing walk and talk. Learn how nature can effectively guide us towards better health whilst increasing our resilience and helping us to reduce our stress levels.

 

Time: 11.00 am – 1.00 pm

Venue: Meet in South Dublin County Council Headquarters, Tallaght (transport provided)SDCC3

To Book Your Place Please Contact: Maria Finn Telephone: 01 414 9270 or 086 380 3060

email: mfinn@sdublincoco.ie

SDCC1

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Burrenbeo trust

Burrenbeo Trust ‘Working for Wellbeing of People and Place’

Heart, Mountain, Ocean and Soul
How nature helps us to self-regulate.

by David Staunton speaking at the;

Working for Wellbeing of People and Place

12th and 13th August, 2016.

Burrenbeo Trust,
Corofin, Co Clare

 

I have a particular fondness for the wonderful and evocative Burren in Co Clare and when the invitation came to speak at Burrenbeo Trust’s ‘Working for Wellbeing of People and Place’ I jumped at the opportunity to once again visit this unique landscape.

Burrenbeo Trust both understands and models relevant ecopsychology in their work.  In their own words they see the importance of ‘connecting people and place’.  This ‘connection’ is the essence of ensuring that we view ourselves as part of nature – not ‘separate from’ or ‘in charge of’ the natural world.  Through exploring this ‘connection’ we can learn a lot about ourselves in terms of self-care and self-regulation and perhaps only then can the words of Theodore Roszak make real sense to us;

‘The needs of the planet are the needs of the person
The rights of the person are the rights of the planet’

 

To book your place at this event please contact Burrenbeo Trust https://burrenbeo.com/

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David_Walk_Inniú

‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and Vitamin ‘N’ (Nature)

‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and Vitamin N (Nature)

 

A child was quoted in Richard Louv’s remarkable book ‘Last Child in the Woods’ as saying that he preferred to play indoors because “…that’s where all the electrical outlets are”, and although we may smile at his reasoning many of us adults often choose to stay indoors for the very same reason.  When we are indoors, although we may be ‘plugged in virtually’ to the world around us through radio, television, social media etc, this also means that we are separated and isolated from the ‘actual’ world by a layer or indeed layers of technology.  As human beings (Homo sapiens), we have been evolving for approximately 200,000 years (and indeed for millions of years previously), to be in close communion with not alone other humans but with ‘non-human nature’.  If we deny ourselves this connection and spend too much time indoors, it may well result in increased levels of anxiety, fear, low mood and feelings of isolation.  I amongst many would argue that this process of disconnection is well established and to the detriment of our communities is fostering a growing mistrust of others.

 

It is important to remember that ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ although a clever phrase from Richard Louv, it is not a ‘listed’ medical classification but rather “…to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from the natural world”.  However, much more importantly Louv in his work provokes us to look at our obsession with ‘labelling’ particularly in the area of mental health.  As a counselling psychotherapist, it is neither within my role nor desire to ‘diagnose’ or ‘label’ another human being – people attend for support as they are and together we work out a agreed plan to move forward.  I do of course continue to offer an indoor practice for those clients who prefer a more traditional approach, but generally speaking clients who decide to work outdoors never ask to go back to indoor therapy.

 

Taking ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ in the light that I believe Louv intended, I would say that the signs are all around us.  Signs that are experienced both in our personal lives and in the communities which we have built such as isolation, anxiety, fear, denial and our obsession with ‘mindless consumerism’. This is not sustainable on either a personal level or a global level.  Cataclysmic climate change is occurring and most of us are far more concerned with what Netflix will offer us next season.  This is a denial of nature’s needs.  We are nature, therefore we are denying ourselves what we need and we become unhappy and detached. We busy ourselves with what the author Ivor Southwood refers to as ‘Non-Stop Inertia’ i.e. we are very busy people going nowhere fast.

 

When I was a child in 1970’s and ‘80’s our primary school (a large school of around 600 pupils) did not have a telephone.  The pace of the development and the universal availability of technology here in Ireland since that time are nothing short of astounding.  Today, all of us have access to what we would now perceive to be ‘common gadgets’ in our pockets or handbags which are far superior and sophisticated to the available technologies which sent human beings in an aluminium container all the way to the moon only a few decades ago.  It is because the available technology today is so amazing, so creative and so fascinating – that we all want to own it, to use it and to live our lives through it.  It is enticingly addictive not because it is bad but because it is so good.  Technology gives us a sense of control and security and allows us to present ourselves in a ‘polished’ way to others… although so often we are simply lonely and fragile people hiding behind our fingertips which tap out a binary coded message to our virtual friends in a nonexistent virtual world.

 

I am a keen advocate of the work of Dr Peter Kahn in the University of Washington, who coined the phrase ‘technological nature’ and whose work recommends us to give very careful consideration to the role of technology in our lives.  Although Dr Kahn suggests that whilst we may express feelings and emotions towards technology, it is important to remember that there is no technological substitute for life and to be ‘alive’ means being in actual contact with other humans and other species.  Moreover, we are nature and any attempt by us to disconnect from nature in any of its forms, is a rejection of our unique individuality within the interconnectedness of all other matter and beings.  Not being outdoors enough and not being in communication with nature is a fractious denial of our very selves.

 

I sometimes ask people, (particularly people like myself who live in a busy inner city), where is your nearest tree?  It is surprising the number of people who do not know the answer.  This question may evoke a realisation which is often followed by a poignant sadness and/or feelings of loss.  Thoughts about a tree often stir long hidden memories about a less busy time, a less built-up environment and perhaps a longing or even a grieving for a sense of community in a less isolated, gated concrete cage which has become home for many of us in this post celtic-tiger era.

 

Think about how we have constructed our urban areas.  Here in Dublin we have run several harsh traffic filled lanes in, around and through the Christchurch area which is the very birthplace of our city.  We negotiate and tolerate so many narrow miserable footpaths in our towns and cities, which require us to be constantly aware of not walking into an unforgiving stream of vehicles.  This is no fit environment for human beings – at best it is a poor compromise and at worst it is a blind worship to an outmoded transportation model which is grossly unsustainable.  In short, much of our urban public space is just not pleasant to be in.  We did not evolve to breathe the exhaust fumes of cars.

 

Roger Ulrich’s work in 1984 remains some of the best known research on the positive results experienced by post operative patients in a hospital who enjoyed a view of trees outdoors as opposed to patients who did not recover as quickly nor as serenely, having been left to recuperate with a view of a brick wall.  I have had an interest in architecture and planning all my life and also had the privilege to work closely in the past with people in transition from homelessness.  This gave me an opportunity to learn so much from their experiences from having grown up and lived in built environments, which in their opinion (and mine), condemned them to a life of personal and communal pain and tragedy, leaving them bereft of any opportunity for effective healing.  It is only with admirable effort that people recover from such an ‘unnatural’ disassociation with nature.  Our public spaces, roads and streets in villages, towns and cities across Ireland must be beautiful, welcoming, fun and relaxed.  They need to be full of trees and full of nature.  There is a healing to be had in green spaces, spaces which are free from the noise and pollution of traffic as sadly all too often there is a strong correlation between social deprivation and a lack of tree-lined roads and green healthy parks and public spaces.

 

A major influence on my ecotherapy and ecopsychology work is the psychologist Theodore Roszak who reminded psychotherapists and other mental health providers to pay more attention to the relationship between a client and their immediate environment, particularly the alienation between what Roszak called the “…recently created urban psyche and the age-old natural environment”.

 

When it comes to improving our mental health, I believe that ‘simple stuff works’.  Routine, healthy diet and exercise can all bring us a long way towards feeling better.  So can being outdoors.  The good news is that nature, despite our best/worst efforts as humans at times, is never too far away.  For many people, just being in nature evokes inspiration and transformation.  It’s no secret and it is increasingly accepted that there are numerous health benefits for mind, body and soul when we simply ‘take a walk’.

 

We all practice some form of ‘ecotherapy’ from time to time such as a walk in the park, gardening or growing our own fruit and vegetables.  These are simple and effective ways to ensure more positive mental health.  Recent research tells us that soil contains microbes which mirror the effect of ‘anti-depressant medication’ in the brain (without the side effects), but if you are an avid gardener, you are probably not too surprised by this.

 

As a counselling psychotherapist and a great lover of walking and being outdoors it was a very natural progression for me to integrate that which personally keeps me psychologically well, with the approach I offer people who wish to work on improving their low mood or increase their wellness levels.  In offering counselling psychotherapy outdoors in healthy natural green spaces, nature becomes a co-therapist in the process, supporting the client with regulating their feelings and emotion.

 

And the simplest thing we can do and the ‘first step’ we can take to help improve our mental health is WALK,

Why…

 

  1. Exercise such as walking releases endorphins in our brains and this makes us feel better.

 

  1. Medical and General Practitioners advise us that walking outdoors in nature can support us with many health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and aid us with post cancer fatigue.

 

  1. Even leisurely walking outdoors improves our mood, self- esteem, and increases our motivation.

 

  1. When we walk in sunshine – we absorb Vitamin D and this helps us to reduce our levels of depression/low mood.

 

  1. When we walk outdoors in nature it can inspire and support us to grow, heal and learn, develop a sense of belonging, whilst restoring our self acceptance.
  1. After walking outdoors for even a short time – we are less likely to feel or tell ourselves we are ‘stuck’.
  2. Walking outdoors is good for the planet. Ecotherapy and ecopsychology are based on the assumption that as humans we have an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature. In doing so we tend to care more for nature and become more aware of the poor treatment our planet receives from humankind. This reduces defence mechanisms such as avoidance and denial allowing us to move into a more accepting, caring and centred place.

 

And remember being outdoors is free.

 

It does not, nor should not cost you a penny to go for a walk.  If you are serious about reconnecting with nature, your ‘first step outdoors’ should not necessarily be to a shopping centre.  And if you find yourself doing so, gently ask yourself why you are doing this it may help you to become more aware of some behaviours which may not be helping you.  Of course I would advocate having suitable clothing and footwear, but the minute you find yourself ‘buying the look’ – bring yourself back to reality.  I find that most people who enjoy the Walk Inniú outdoor ecotherapy workshops (Ecotherapy Hedge School / Walk and Talk’s etc) are generally a very relaxed bunch and place far more emphasis in being outdoors in nature rather than indoors choosing gadgets and expensive clothing.

 

Sometimes the things we own can end up owning us!

 

If the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ is evoking a feeling that you may not be in connection with wild spaces and natural surroundings as much as you would like then the antidote is very simple – you need a regular dose of what Louv refers to as ‘Vitamin N’ – that’s right N for Nature.

 

How to begin your Ecotherapy and take your dose of ‘Vitamin N’

 

  1. Take a step, a step anywhere outdoors – your garden, your local park, your street or road…and then take another and another and another and hey presto… you are walking outdoors.

 

  1. Try to walk in ‘wild’ places from time to time. Perhaps along a rugged coastline, a mountain with native trees or on a bog. Bogs make exceptionally interesting diverse places to visit.  (Do take care and follow practical guidelines, seeking landowner’s permission if necessary when walking in wild places).

 

  1. Remember you don’t need your car keys to go for a walk – Discover and become aware of the nature that is in your local environment. Nature is found not only in our green Irish glens and majestic mountains but is also the struggling seedling which dares to poke its head up through the cracks in our city streets.

 

  1. Sanitise your walk. Unplug and switch off (earphones, smart phones etc). Ask yourself if you really need yet another digital image of a sunset or a flower or a rabbit. Leave tweeting to the birds not to your phone.

 

  1. Become as mindful as you can. Feel the breeze on your cheek, notice the heat of the sun, check in with your breathing and be present to the nature that surrounds you.

 

 

All my life I have benefited from the healing affects of nature and being outdoors.  Having been fortunate enough to grow up in the west of Ireland and being no stranger to the natural wildness of the landscape, I developed a deep appreciation of the connection we can feel as human beings to a space and place.   Having now lived in inner city Dublin for most of my life, some years ago I became aware of a growing disconnection with nature which created a personal unease, an unease that cleared the more I supported myself through engaging in ecotherapeutic activities.

 

I believe that Ireland is incredibly well suited to providing ecotherapy and ecopsychology, as we all have ready access to open countryside through trails, walks, mountain paths and a very long winding sea shore.  Our nearest neighbours in the UK are ahead of the ball to the extent that many GP’s in the UK will prescribe you a course of ecotherapy and it is widely respected and recognised by the NHS as an efficacious and cost effective approach for supporting people in need.  And as a ‘bloke’ I also recognise the cultural and stereotypical stigma that many of us Irish men feel (both real and imagined) when it comes to getting help.

 

Finally, climate change is the number one challenge of our time but it is often met by ‘avoidance, denial and projection’. However, us psychotherapists are trained to work with these ‘all-too-human’ defensive behaviours and I believe that by integrating growth, healing and learning in a more ‘eco – centric’ approach, it is possible to offer people a more positive and cohesive path towards better mental health with increased happiness and wellness.

 

The positive side-effect of ecotherapy is that when we truly nurture ourselves, we become better able and more likely to nurture our planet.

 

David Staunton

 

If you wish to learn more about David Staunton, Walk Inniú – Counselling Psychotherapy Outdoors or the introductory ‘Ecotherapy Hedge School Workshops’ feel free to check out www.walkinniu.ie , follow him on twitter @Walkinniu or contact David directly at 086 033 99 33 or email him at davidstaunton@walkinniu.ie

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Niall Breslin (Bressie) Bresie's Ironmind

The Dynamic Momentum known as ‘Bressie’

When a recognisable, well-loved and well-respected personality such as Niall Breslin (aka Bressie) talks openly about their personal mental health – they get an immediate and attentive audience.  But given the honesty and courage which Niall has spoken publicly with in recent times, he not alone earned but well deserves his audience – and what’s more his authentic efforts have gathered quite the ‘dynamic momentum’.

 
Not alone did Niall’s heartfelt disclosure of his struggle with anxiety spur the foundation of the A Lust for Life wellness website, (of which I was only too delighted to have been invited to write an article on ecotherapy for), his new creation on RTÉ Two, ‘Bressie’s Ironmind’ will explore the link between movement/exercise and well-being.

 

Bressie tells us that the aim,

“…was to work with a group of individuals with varying degrees of primary care mental health issues over the course of six months to train them to compete in a 70.3 Ironman Triathlon, but more importantly to develop their coping strategies and mental fitness with the hope that it would allow them deal much more effectively with their minds and emotional well-being”

 

However important it is that we see Bressie and his team of professionals exploring the link between ‘mind and body’ the benefit of having the topics of mental health and wellness being discussed on primetime national television is immense.  An inspirational and encouraging character the calibre of Bressie, can and has done so much for this nation’s wellbeing which is to be encouraged and admired, (no pressure intended Bressie).

 

At Walk Inniú of course we are a little (a lot) more sedentary about incorporating movement into counselling psychotherapy and although we get a lot of energetic hikers at our fortnightly Winter Walk and Talk’s at Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the pace is usually more of a ramble.  I know of a fellow practitioner in London who literally runs with his clients around a park during their sessions and this of course will resonate with people who enjoy jogging for its therapeutic benefits.

 
But when it comes to working with me here in Dublin the hint is in the name… it’s ‘Walk’ Inniú.

 

Walking Towards Wellness - Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology, David Staunton

Walking Towards Wellness – Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology, David Staunton

 

Click here to read my Walking towards Wellness – Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology article featured in Bressie’s Wellness Website ‘A Lust for Life’

 

 

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Walk and Talk

7 Benefits from Walking and being Outdoors

Why should we walk?

 

  1. Exercise such as walking releases endorphins in our brains and this makes us feel better.

 

  1. Medical and General Practitioners advise us that walking outdoors in nature can support us with many health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and aid us with post cancer fatigue.

 

  1. Even leisurely walking outdoors improves our mood, self- esteem, and increases our motivation.

 

  1. When we walk in sunshine – we absorb Vitamin D and this helps us to reduce our levels of depression/low mood.

 

  1. When we walk outdoors in nature it can inspire and support us to grow, heal and learn, develop a sense of belonging, whilst restoring our self acceptance.

 

  1. After walking outdoors for even a short time – we are less likely to feel or tell ourselves we are ‘stuck’.

 

  1. Walking outdoors is good for the planet. Ecotherapy and ecopsychology are based on the assumption that as humans we have an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature. In doing so we tend to care more for nature and become more aware of the poor treatment our planet receives from humankind. This reduces defence mechanisms such as avoidance and denial allowing us to move into a more accepting, caring and centred place.

 

 

Enjoy your walk…

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