The answer to dealing with the stress of our busy lives could be to go barefoot according to Otley based eco-therapist Hayley Gillard.
Hayley, who is the founder of Wild Goose retreat in Otley Chevin, is encouraging stressed out men and women to throw off their shoes and socks and head for the great outdoors as part of her Barefoot Club.
“Most of us have gone barefoot on the beach or in the garden and all of us probably spent a lot of our childhood barefoot. But, as adults we often see it as a bit ‘woo woo’ or even dangerous,” said Hayley.
“I love shoes and I’m not advocating removing shoes from your life completely, what I am proposing is that more people spend more quality time baring their soles.”
The Barefoot Club and Laughter Yoga workshops, are among the activities offered at Hayley’s wellbeing retreat set in the woodland of the chevin and focused on mental health.
“Nature is good for you,” Hayley explained. “We believe it has the power to help you relax, de-stress and feel better. We understand that looking after your mind is essential and so we promote positive well-being and mental health for everyone.”
Hayley said Wild Goose was passionate about breaking down the stigma attached to mental health and the retreat is run as a social enterprise. The money made from retreats and workshops is reinvested in providing free referral sessions for people with mental health problem, working across Leeds, Harrogate, Bradford, Wetherby and York.
There has been a marked rise in the number of barefoot clubs springing up across the country in recent years. In 2000 Alexander Technique teacher, John Woodward, launched barefoot running courses in the Lake District and in 2006 the UK’s first outdoor ‘barfuss’ (German for barefoot) trail opened in Nottinghamshire.
As well as being good for our feet physically, Hayley said going barefoot can also help with our sense of freedom.
“Our feet weren’t made for shoes, she said. “They are prodded and pushed in ways they don’t want to go.
“Being barefoot can help to improve gait, growth and muscle tone as well as using our muscular and skeletal system in the ways nature intended.
“There are a lot of acupressure points on your feet which are linked to anxiety, stress and mental wellbeing, walking on your bare soles stimulates all of these. Our feet have more than 200,000 nerve endings and as we feel the ground, its texture and temperature, we become much more aware of the earth beneath us and can feel grounded and calmer.
“Going barefoot is so good for your body, mind and soul I can’t think of any reasons why not to do it.”
More reasons to bare your toes
Being barefoot is great for balance and focus as you concentrate on the path ahead.
A bit of fresh air (or mud) around toes that have been cooped up all winter, feels great and gives your feet a bit of a spring clean.
That it feels silly is a benefit.It is good to laugh at life’s awkward moments, especially as we spend so much time feeling stressed.
Hayley is launching a health and wellbeing app called Self Care Compass.
Find out more at www.wildgoosecic.co.uk