Julia Bradbury: the outdoors became my therapist

  • Contributor information: CNP


TV presenter Julia Bradbury became synonymous with the UK mountains after fronting the iconic Wainwright Walks series. Here she tells us why she is supporting Mountains for the Mind and how the hills became a healing place at a difficult time in her life.   

I spoke publicly about my experiences with mental health for the first time in 2017. It wasn’t through any sense of shame that I hadn’t opened up like that before, it was just something that wasn’t talked about as much as it is today. And nobody had ever asked me about it.

TV's Julia Bradbury

TV’s Julia Bradbury says spending time in the outdoors has helped her. 

It came during a stressful period of my life. Lots of issues all came together at once and I didn’t know
how to handle them all. I suffer from endometriosis – a condition where the tissue that lines the womb grows outside the womb in the ovaries and fallopian tubes. One in 10 women suffer globally and it can affect fertility, as well as cause great pain and depression. There’s no cure as such. I was also facing some challenging career decisions and some other personal pressures. The culmination of events and emotions all climaxed at the same time, and it got on top of me. 

I went to see someone to talk about it and found a lot of therapeutic qualities in the outdoors, which helped me a great deal. Fortunately, it now isn’t something I have to deal with every day, but I would never judge someone who suffers from anxiety and depression on a daily basis. We should all feel comfortable talking about our experiences with mental health, because it’s something that one in four of us has to deal with at some point in our lives.

The outdoors has always been a great healing place for me, and that’s something I learned even more during that period. The research about time spent in green spaces and its positive impact on mental health is indisputable and totally conclusive. My dad introduced me to walking as a young girl and I’ve used exercise as an escape my whole life. It’s very habitual.

At the time I was presenting Countryfile, so was spending lots of time outdoors and had access to so many amazing places. I always took time to myself to soak it all in, even if it was just a five-minute stroll before filming, losing myself in a forest or scrambling to a different part of the mountain. I was very lucky.

There’s something mentally satisfying about climbing mountains. The satisfaction of getting to the top, no matter how big or small the peak is, makes you feel mentally positive and happy. Your endorphins are flying high and all the chemicals in your body are really pumping. Reaching the summit is just the conclusion of that feeling. 

Talking to people helped me a great deal too. It’s important to say that no one thing fixes everything though. Spending time outdoors became my therapist for a while, as did talking regularly to professionals, friends and family. All of these things together helped. 

Climbing mountains and walking can be wonderful for your mental health, and can be an important part of the solution.

By Julia Bradbury

Julia  has presented TV shows including Countryfile, Wainwright Walks and Britain’s Favourite Walks. She’s also the co-founder of www.theoutdoorguide.co.uk – an online resource of walking routes for everyone from complete beginners to experienced hikers.

What is Mountains For The Mind?

One in four people in Britain experience mental health problems each year, and one in six of us report them to our GP every single week. BUT it’s been scientifically proven that spending time in the great outdoors is a powerful natural anti-depressant, and regular exercise can reduce the risk of depression by 30%. We are very lucky in the UK that our high and wild places are protected by their National Park status. All are perfect places to escape every day stresses and feel the soothing power of nature on the mind.

In 2019 Trail magazine launched Mountains For the Mind – a campaign to finally get mental health out in the open in partnership with mental health charity Mind. In just a few months, thousands of people have shared their stories of the life-changing impact on the mountains have had in changing their lives for the better and signed up to the campaign at www.mountainsforthemind.co.uk to help promote these amazing benefits. Click here to read a few of their stories