We are all aware that walking has many benefits including toning muscles and boosting heart health, but did you know that it also has a positive effect on mood and mental health? If you have ever gone for a walk to clear your head, you know that it can be very helpful in relieving stress. But have you ever wondered why this is?
10 Tips to Reap the Mental Health Benefits of Walking
Take a walk in nature, or near a lake, river, or ocean.
According to Jonathan Hoban, walking provides a way to connect with the primal, animal nature that lies dormant inside you. Hoban uses the metaphor of an ‘inner wolf’ to represent his own wild nature. He believes that reconnecting with our inner wolf can help improve our mental health.
He believes that we have lost touch with our intuition and that we are more likely to try and think our way out of problems instead of feeling our way out. Walking helps us feel more connected to the world and grounded in nature, which helps us remember that we are primal beings.
An analysis of 1,252 people from different backgrounds across the UK showed that walking somewhere green, even for just five minutes, helps improve your sense of well-being and lowers your risk of mental illness.
Adding water to natural landscapes increases wellbeing.
The love of walking near water is something that is hardwired into our DNA and dates back thousands of years, according to Annabel Streets, author of 52 Ways to Walk.
WATER = SURVIVAL Water is essential for survival. Our ancestors’ instincts would kick in when they heard the sound of water, as it signified a place where they could find food and water to stay alive. Although we don’t have to worry about hunting for food nowadays, and water is readily available in our homes, these primal feelings are still present within us.
Streets explains that another benefit to walking near water is that the light is reflected off the water’s surface, so you’re exposed to twice the level of light. When light falls on our skin, it creates the hormone serotonin – known as our feel good or happy hormone – so the more light we see, the happier we feel.
Rain can be very therapeutic. It can help clear your mind and help you relax. Walking in the rain can also help improve your mood and reduce stress levels.
’ As we’ve discussed, there are many benefits to walking near water. However, there is something particularly special about being near quickly moving water, such as waterfalls or waves. A recent study from Austria found that workers who took regular walks near waterfalls had better overall health, immunity, and mood than those who had not been exposed to this type of setting.
’ The feeling of wellness that people experience near large bodies of water is caused by negative ions. These ions are created when air molecules are broken apart by fast moving water. Negative ions change the air we breathe and make us feel more awake and energetic.
According to Streets, one of the reasons people often talk about the benefits of sea air is because it can have a positive effect on mood. If you can’t find a local waterfall, rainfall can have a similar effect. So, don’t be afraid to wear a raincoat and wellies this season and embrace a summer downpour.
Try the tiptoe walking technique to feel uplifted
Streets suggests that although it may not be possible for everyone to escape to nature, it is still possible to find enjoyment in walking around cities and urban areas.
’ There is a recent study that found that if you walk on your toes, you will be in a better mood.
The effect is a noticeable but not outrageous spring in your step that will make you feel more energetic and alert’ To make your bounce less noticeable, exaggerate the transfer from your heel to your toe as you walk and add a little lift when you come up onto the balls of your feet. This will give you a more energetic and alert appearance without looking outrageous.
Streets advises that this technique is not ideal for long distances, but it’s a great way to start your day if you’re walking to the office or if you need a break from your desk during lunchtime. If you’re feeling adventurous, skipping around your local park can be a great way to improve your mood.
Power walk to dispel anger
This exercise is a great way to remove anger that has built up and is causing blocks in your body, according to Jonathan. First, take a five-minute walk to warm up. Then, think about what is causing your anger and walk as fast as you can.
Write them down if you can. Walk quickly for four minutes, then slow down for two minutes. Speed up again for two minutes, then one minute slow and one minute fast. At the end, write down how angry you feel.
According to Jonathan, walking quickly while pumping your arms up and down is an effective way to release stress and negative energy, rather than internalizing it. This allows your body to express itself physically, rather than through angry outbursts.
The reason you feel good after a walk may also be due to the impact of your feet hitting the ground. Researchers in New Mexico found that rhythmic motion helps boost blood supply to your brain.
Turn off your tech when walking
Jonathan advises taking occasional breaks from your phone if you’re the type of person who enjoys walks and talks, or likes to listen to things on their phone. He explains that having your phone open and easily accessible is mentally draining, like trying to focus on multiple things at once, such as a diary, a camera, a TV, and a radio.
According to Jonathan, being constantly bombarded with apps and notifications can be too much for your brain to handle, resulting in retinal overstimulation. He recommends taking walking breaks to help relieve stress, and turning off technology for a while to create a more natural daily rhythm.
Believe it or not, spending most of our days staring at screens is something that has become very normalized in today’s society. However, according to Streets, this screen time can be very taxing on our bodies, especially our eyes.
Streets suggests that you take your phone in case of emergencies, but try to keep it in your bag or pocket and focus on what is in front of you.
Walking can help you beat cravings and addiction
The study found that just 15 minutes of walking can help stop regular chocolate eaters from experiencing their usual cravings.
, and you will find that the world is a more interesting place. If you pay attention to your senses while you are walking, you will notice that the world is more interesting.
Or a memory? Focus on the smells around you during your walk and sit for a minute to concentrate on them. Close your eyes and breathe through your nose. Think about the feelings and associations that come up. Does the smell remind you of a color? Or a shape? Or a memory?
Jonathan says that considering your present state can help you understand how you are feeling inside and what you might need to heal.
Try a walking meditation
Meditative or “paced” breathing is a technique that Afghan nomads have been using for a long time. This technique was first identified by Frenchman Édouard Stiegler in Kabul in the 1960s. According to Streets, the Afghan nomads who use this technique walk more than 30 miles a day, but they always appear radiant.
’ The individual was explained how deep breathing can help with walking further. Paced breathing is where you breathe in and out through your nose or mouth, in time with your steps.
’ Inhale for a count of three, then take three walking paces. Hold your breath for one pace, then exhale as you take another pace. This helps you to be mindful and walk with a regular rhythm. It also helps to align your mind, body, and heart, so that you can walk further and feel refreshed.
According to Streets, it’s best to do paced breathing while walking on familiar routes where you won’t be distracted by new sights and sounds.
Go walking with others for greater mental health benefits
If you’re going through a tough time, it can be helpful to walk with your family, join an organized group, or convince friends to walk with you.
A study done at Michigan University revealed that group nature walks are associated with significantly lower levels of depression and increased wellbeing, especially for those who have experienced a stressful life event.
and can spur you on to reach the end. And of course, it’s always more fun.’ According to Streets, walking alone is great if you want to think things over, but it can be even better to walk with friends. If you’re trying to do something difficult, being with other people can make it easier to succeed. And it’s always more enjoyable to have company.
’ When you walk with a friend, it seems like the distance is shorter and the heights are not as high. Studies have shown that this is because you are talking to someone and thinking about other things instead of focusing on how hard the walk is. Having someone else there also motivates and encourages you.
A recent study found that if you start to feel like you can’t continue walking, imagining that a friend is with you will encourage you to keep going. It’s also a great way to bond with someone. This is because accomplishing something with others creates a closer relationship and a shared sense of achievement.
Mix up your walking routes
They discovered that different routes stimulate different areas of the brain, which helps to promote neuroplasticity and the growth of new brain cells. This recent study found that walkers who regularly change up their routes tend to be in better moods and have less anxiety. According to Streets, this is because our brains enjoy novelty and different routes stimulate different areas of the brain, promoting neuroplasticity and the growth of new brain cells.
Improve Mental Sharpness
Further studies are necessary to investigate the effect of walking on cognitive function, but results so far suggest that it may be beneficial, especially for older adults.
A different study found that even gentle walking can help improve hippocampal volume in older people. This is especially important because hippocampal atrophy is connected to memory problems and dementia.
A study in 2011 found that older adults who walked 40 minutes a day, three times a week, reduced the normal age-related shrinkage of their brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus is where the brain processes memory and emotions. After a year, these older adults improved their performance on spatial memory tasks.
How to Use Walking in Your Spiritual Life
When you walk, you have more time to think about important questions in your life such as what your purpose is and if you are doing everything you can to achieve that. This can also help you think about ways you could improve the world or ways you need to make up for any wrongs you have committed in the past. Finally, you can also reflect on what happens after life and how you want to spend the time you have left.
What are the implications of your beliefs? How did you arrive at those beliefs? Are your beliefs based on faith or on evidence? These are questions that believers and nonbelievers should consider. Having time away from other responsibilities gives you time to think about these things more deeply.
You can use your walking time to create or reinforce your affirmations if you’re working on positive thinking and affirmations.
In The Spirited Walker, Carolyn Scott Kortge explains that keeping your body in motion also helps keep your mind active. This is something that many of us crave unconsciously – a balance of body and mind, along with a sense of connection to others and to the spiritual values that are important to us.
You can use walking as a way to clear your mind and make yourself present in the moment, just as you would with yoga. By reconnecting your mind and body, and losing yourself in the perfect expression of rhythm, breathing, and moving, you can achieve a sense of peace and clarity.
Walking is a great way to connect with God. Some people use their walking time to pray and to receive spiritual inspiration. As I walk, I give thanks for the beauty I see around me, both in nature and in the people I pass by or walk with. Praise comes easily and at times I feel like breaking into songs of worship. If I am alone, I will do so. The rhythm of walking and the integration of body and mind leaves you open to talk with God, uncluttered by other intrusions.
Walking has been historically used as a means of prayer by monks. labyrinths are an ancient technique for prayer and meditation, and Walking the Labyrinth provides modern-day locations to practice this spiritual activity.