It’s so easy to walk around our local communities and become frustrated by the amount of rubbish scattered around. It’s everywhere and we all wish littering didn’t happen. The good news is that choosing to be part of tidying up our streets and green spaces is brilliant for improving your wellbeing.
I’ve been involved with litter picking for a few years, mainly as part of Goodgym, a community of volunteers combining fitness with doing good. It wasn’t until the pandemic struck in March that I realised how much litter picking contributed to my physical and mental health.
All sounding positive, but still need convincing? Here are my five reasons why litter picking is a fabulous wellbeing tool, especially during the pandemic:
1. You meet other people
Social distancing has put a halt on much of our interaction. With a rise in home-working and limits on households mixing, we aren’t having those all-important casual natters and face-to-face catch ups. Heading out litter picking guarantees you some conversation, new faces, and perhaps some familiar ones. Whether you have deep discussions putting the world to rights, or just have a giggle about the bizarre pieces of litter you come across, it’s a great way to tackle feelings of social isolation.
2. You can support your local environment
We all want to walk down clean, glistening streets free of debris. For me, and many others I’m sure, the pandemic has meant I’ve felt really lacking in control; I just want to ‘fix’ everything and make sure everyone is okay! Since March, picking up litter has felt remarkably different for me. With just a bin bag and a litter picker you can make a conscious, tangible and positive change in society. Seeing local pavements free of those cigarette butts and old receipts is so satisfying. Taking along a bag purely for recyclables is even more satisfying – a little virtual hug for our planet, as well as your local spaces!
3. It keeps you active
I’m a pretty keen runner, an avid yogi and love long walks. But I lost my rhythm and routine throughout lockdown. I was much less active and a lot more sluggish! It was only when out litter picking that it didn’t even feel like I was motivating myself to exercise. Take a relaxed pace, enjoy the scenery and keep popping bits of litter into the bag. Before you know it, you’ve been outside in the fresh air, done some cardio, and a little bit of weight training too.
4. Explore new places
We think we know our local areas, but there are always nooks and crannies left to explore. There will be shortcuts and alleyways you didn’t know were there, quiet green spaces that the crowds haven’t discovered yet. I initially felt my sense of adventure and spontaneity were being paused by the pandemic. It was invigorating and empowering to get out on a litter pick though, finding hidden spots, ideas for new walking routes and impressive street art.
5. Giving back feels good
This, in many ways, is what it’s all about. It feels good to have a positive impact. It’s healthy to step outside of ourselves sometimes and pay close attention to what’s around us. The sense of community from a single litter pick with just a few others can boost your mood significantly. Seeing up to six or seven bags of litter that you have helped clear off the streets is a fantastic feeling. And often, passers-by very kindly give nods of thanks and big smiles of appreciation. These are the feel-good vibes we can all do with, now more than ever.
Guest post by Annie, who is a volunteer with Goodgym Birmingham and took part in The Active Wellbeing Society’s #ArmsAroundBirmingham 27-mile litter busting tour of the city.