If you google the term ‘wellderness,’ you’ll find a couple of podcasts, and Mary Walsh’s website www.wellderness.org. It’s a website dedicated to the practice of feeling good in nature. I had never thought of this word until recently, and though it’s not a real word, what a perfect word to describe a concept we all know and understand?
It is hard to ignore the good feeling that being out in nature gives us. It would be even more difficult to convince someone that going into the wilderness will make them feel bad. There are some intimidating qualities of the wilderness, especially in Iceland, like wide open spaces, hostile weather and the possibility of getting stuck or lost. But even the negative connotations of these experiences are sometimes seen as an exciting part of the adventure.
There are different types of nature therapies and various ways to improve wellness in the outdoors. Mary talks about walking and cold water swimming as her two main approaches, and I wholeheartedly agree. Walking, running and any kind of swimming are my favourite and most frequent forms of exercise. To get further into the outdoors, long-distance hikes and horseback riding are great for multi-day adventures, and my favourite way to experience the Icelandic highlands and other remote areas like Hornstrandir.
There’s no doubt that we value the wilderness for much more than it is. Lava, glaciers, rivers, moss and birch – they all have their own energy and influence on us. The weather also changes everything – the power, and sometimes danger, of a winter storm is incredibly humbling. I am allergic to everything green in an Icelandic summer, but simply seeing the endless green hay fields and crooked birch forests gives me energy. Swimming in natural geothermal springs and glacier-melt rivers are equally invigorating, and I couldn’t imagine a better place to have gotten stuck in during the covid-19 pandemic. The therapeutic landscapes of Iceland have certainly kept my mental and physical health afloat these last 16 months… so thank you, Iceland, my natural therapist.