Immersing myself in nature around Johannesburg boosts my mental and physical wellbeing. 

Midway through my second year at Wits I was struggling with mental health issues. It became difficult to set goals, meet deadlines, and to attend crucial lectures. This caused my academic work to suffer, and my marks to drop. I also lost interest in things that I had once loved. 

As overwhelming and isolating as my depression felt, it is not an uncommon occurrence. According to a 2022 paper by the Wits/Medical Research Council developmental pathways for health research unit (DPHRU), just over one-quarter of South Africans have probable depression. This fluctuates from province to province – with the highest rates in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. 

One day, my friends called me to come on a walk with them. Not really understanding why people would walk for fun, I hesitantly went along.  

Important to note is that, at the time, I was not able to see much good about what was around me. My mindset was extremely negative towards Joburg – the bad clouded the good.  

We drove to a hill near Bedfordview, Ekurhuleni, to get an unobstructed view of the city. I remember sitting on a rock watching the sun set over Joburg. I was in awe of the City of Gold. We sat there well into the evening – chatting, listening to music, and most importantly, enjoying the view of the city. 

The Sandton skyline glows in the sunset from the viewpoint of Harvey’s Nature Reserve on Linksfield Ridge. Photo: Seth Thorne

I wanted to do this more often. I wanted to see more of this beautiful city again. I remembered it being beautiful when I was a kid. What I am generally told now is that Joburg is a bad city, so everything about it must be bad… right? 

I realised that I had lived in the city for my entire life but had not really seen Joburg. 

I decided to set time aside to go on walks and hikes to see Jozi from different perspectives with my friends. It was a big decision because it meant I had to cut into my Netflix time. However, it changed my life forever. 

The more I went out to see the city with my friends, the happier I found myself. From watching the sun set on Northcliff Hill, The Wilds in Houghton, and Harvey’s Nature Reserve on Linksfield Ridge, to spending a Saturday at the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein. Seeing Joburg made me mentally and physically healthier.   Taking care of your own well-being is known as “personal counselling”. This refers to nurturing one’s own mental health by making use of self-help resources and activities that a person would enjoy. 

Techniques can also be learnt, with the Wits Careers Counselling and Development Unit offering some suggestions, which can be accessed by clicking here.  

Walks around the city have made me more optimistic about Joburg, and life in general. It is an unbelievably diverse, complex, and misunderstood city that radiates a lot of beauty – if you allow yourself to see it. I also became enthusiastic about university, and my academic performance improved as a result.   My suggestion to everyone is to go out and experience the beauty of the world around you. It just may change your life.


Seth Thorne. Photo: File