Feel-good things to do in London

Send serotonin levels soaring with London pastimes that nourish body, mind and soul.

31 January, 2024

These darker months are the perfect time to seek out pursuits that raise your endorphins and enhance your way of life. From mood-boosting wild swimming to mindful meditation, reap the benefits of the Capital’s regenerative pleasures.

Pay it forward at Social Bite, WC2

Best for: spreading kindness

Show a little compassion by paying for a hot drink or lunch for Londoners experiencing homelessness or food poverty at the Social Bite café on The Strand.

The chain of eateries has the motto ‘Good Food for a Good Cause’ and began life as a small coffee shop in Edinburgh. After employing a homeless man to work in their shop, the owners were so impassioned by the power of supportive employment, that their movement and campaigning to end homelessness began. They expanded to four Scotland sites before launching in Westminster in 2022. Since then, they’ve provided thousands of free meals donated by kind hearted Capital dwellers.

Also: Volunteer at the Tooting Community Kitchen, SW17, where you can help out with serving hot meals to the homeless on the High Street.

Yoga at The Natural History Museum, SW7

Best for: holistic health and history

Salute the 8am sun under the humbling presence of the majestic Natural History Museum’s Blue Whale skeleton, ‘Hope’. Their Sunday morning rise and shine yoga sessions in the museum’s grand Hintze Hall are hosted by East of Eden and are designed to help you energise and practise mindfulness through a series of ancient yogic movements.

After your flex and stretch, cool down to a live gong bath before exploring the museum’s vast collections. Look out for more unique holistic classes like Live Harp Yoga and Tai Chi, all held under the watchful gaze of Hope.

Also: Laughter is the best balm when it comes to brightening up your mood. And Laughter Yoga gives you the psychological and physiological benefits of mirth and merriment while keeping fit. Find a Laughter Club near you in London.

Hampstead Ponds wild swimming, NW3

Best for: an instant mood boost

An outdoor dip improves your immune system, metabolism, and works wonders on relieving anxiety and stress. Take the plunge and experience the euphoria of cold-water swimming at Hampstead’s three historic natural swimming ponds. Part of a series of 30 bodies of water on Hampstead Heath, they were originally dug out from the 17th century onwards to form reservoirs that fed burgeoning London’s ever-increasing demand for water.

The men’s and ladies’ ponds open from 7am to 2pm and the mixed pond will open again in the spring. It is advised that strong swimmers only bathe in these deep pools and there are strict rules around acclimatising to extremely cold temperatures. Consult the City of London’s cold water swimming guidelines before visiting.

Also: Beckenham Place Park, BR3, has London’s first purpose-built swimming lake and offers prebooked swimming and paddleboard sessions as well as cold water swimming inductions.

Hampstead Ponds - Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward

AIRE Ancient Baths London, WC2

Best for: pampering your cares away

Hidden below a 17th century terraced house in Robert Street that was once home to Scottish ‘Peter Pan’ author JM Barrie, there lies a warren of brick-lined pools in a former underground wine cellar. This vaulted sanctuary discreetly tucked away between the Strand and Victoria Embankment is the home of AIRE Ancient Baths – a classical Greek and Roman temple-inspired spa.

Among the deeply serene candlelit caverns, bliss out with an argan oil massage, detox in an aromatherapy steam room, transcend the everyday in a Flotarium, and soothe your senses in the heart-shaped bath where you can soak in alcohol-free, Spanish red wine.

Also: Tune in and turn off with a deeply relaxing, weightless Floatworks experience at Vauxhall, SW8, or a chakra energy balancing massage at the Aveda flagship store in High Holborn, WC1.

Urban Growth gardening sessions, SW9

Best for: nurture and nature

Connect with nature, meet like-minded Londoners, and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of sowing and growing through a community gardening scheme like Urban Growth. They aim to bring green spaces back into our cities to improve our environmental impact, living conditions, and collective Capital wellbeing.

As well as advising you on rewilding public spaces and growing on streets, roofs and walls, they run volunteer workshops at The Brixton Orchard, where aspiring gardeners can learn how to care for fruit trees and grow hedgerow plants.

Also: Capital Growth runs a variety of gardening sessions across London, like No Dig Gardening, Letting Bees Be Wild, Beginner Food Growing, Composting and Edible Container Gardening.

Urban Growth - Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward

Brockwell Lido and leisure centre, SE24

Best for: a sporting splash

Build strength and endurance with an invigorating lane swim in a 50m outdoor pool, followed by an exercise class in the adjoining studio at London’s historic Grade II listed Brockwell Lido. On the Herne Hill edge of Lambeth’s Green Flag Award-winning Brockwell Park, the Lido was built in 1937 and closed in 1990 before re-opening in 1994 after locals campaigned for its survival.

A leisure and social hub in one, you can get your morning laps in, or enjoy a weights session before winding down in the jacuzzi and re-fuelling at the terrace café.

Also: Charlton Lido and Lifestyle Club, SE18, has an Olympic-sized, outdoor heated pool, a fitness studio, open air cycle studio, fitness class outdoor terrace, floodlit tennis courts and BMX race track.

Brockwell Lido - Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward

Re:Mind meditation studio, SW1

Best for: mindfulness and meditation

Peace, calm and clarity – those are just a few of the benefits of practising meditation techniques. Re:Mind’s zen-like sanctum is a few minutes’ walk from the buzz of Victoria’s mainline station and offers a range of meditative healing sessions to help you rest, thrive and grow. Seek your inner peace through breathwork, reiki, crystal bowl singing, and more.

Private and group classes promote ‘a renewed sense of calm and connection’ as well as elevating your productivity and encouraging better sleep patterns.

Also: Salve and soothe the nervous system with a meditative sound bath experience at Sound Awakening, Stoke Newington, N1. The idea is that you can retune your mind, body and spirit through vibrations.

Self-improvement at the School of Life, WC1

Best for: learning life skills

What’s your purpose in life? How can you master the art of resilience? Are you self-aware enough to see how others see you? The School of Life helps you to lead a more fulfilled professional life through learning about all aspects of emotional intelligence. They run career-based workshops, both virtually and at their shop in Bloomsbury, on topics such as communication, leadership, and confidence, as well as group therapy sessions to help with your personal development.

Invest in a School of Life subscription for access to their app which contains tools to help you understand more about yourself, make positive life choices, and form deeper friendships.

Also: Attend to your personal development at Inner Space, Covent Garden, WC2. Alongside meditation sessions, they host classes like ‘Keeping Conflict Healthy’, ‘Time Management Tips’ and ‘Improving Your Self-Esteem’.

GoodGym, multiple locations across London

Best for: do-good, feel-good fitness

Combine walking, running or cycling with doing charitable tasks like planting trees at a local park, cleaning up a community centre, or helping out an older person, by signing up to GoodGym, whose motto is ‘do good, get fit’.

A great way to widen your social circle too, GoodGym hosts sessions, parties, and group events at a variety of London locations, from Croydon and Ealing, to Wandsworth and Lewisham. The physical-exercise-meets-volunteering model offers the triple whammy of improving your health, doing your bit for a good cause, and growing your social circle.

Also: Explore the Hands On London website to find a volunteering role that suits you and your causes. They can connect you with over 200 charities that encourage good deeds like befriending a person living with dementia through a simple escorted walk in the park.

Tamsin Trail walk, TW10

Best for: walking to wellbeing

Improve your mood, boost heart health, and enhance your creative thinking on one of London’s exceptional scenic walks. The 7-mile Tamsin Trail loop around the perimeter of Richmond Park takes up to four hours and almost guarantees a glimpse of the many red and fallow deer among its green-fringed paths.

There’s also the opportunity to see London’s famed ring-necked parakeets – thought to have been brought here from Pakistan and northern India as exotic pets and subsequently released. Stop for refreshments and an epic view of St Paul’s in London from King Henry’s Mound

Also: From the splendour of Hampton Court Palace to nature-rich trails and The London Wetland Centre, take in the highlights of south west London on the Hampton Court to Putney Thames Path.

Tasmin Trail Walk - Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward

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