Walking For Well-being

Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective. In a world where health and wellness are multibillion dollar industries, there are many powerful tool for wellness available to us for no cost.

One such tool is the daily stroll.

Walking, for most of us, is perhaps one of the things we most take for granted. It is a phenomenal ability, and one which has numerous benefits.

There is a significant body of evidence to suggest that even a 10-minute walk outdoors each day can reduce depression and anxiety while improving mood.

When you really stop to think about it, this starts to make sense.

A full immersion experience

Walking outdoors is a fully immersive experience. When we take a walk outdoors, we engage our senses. We not only get the body moving, but we see, hear, touch, smell, and feel things as well.

We see the clouds in the sky, the trees in the distance. We see our neighbors or strangers bustling to and fro. We hear birds chirping, cars driving past, dogs barking, children playing; we hear the crinkling of leaves. We feel the wind in our hair, the sun on our skin, the ground beneath our feet. We smell a neighbor grilling, the dew of the morning air.

Compare this to crawling under the covers when in a bad mood. It’s like willfully going into a virtual sensory-deprivation tank. How could one expect to feel better?

All of this sensory engagement that comes with an outdoor walk helps us to ‘get out of our heads’ and into a state of mindful awareness by directing our attention toward external stimuli. Anxiety and depression are sustained by a focus on the past and the future, through either rumination of past negative events, or negative projection of future events.

Walking and meditation

It’s no wonder, then, that walking and meditation have a long and storied history. Spiritual leaders have long understood the potential of walking to help us connect with our own mindful awareness.

We we walk with mindful awareness, we open ourselves to the beauty of the world — the beauty, even, of our own neighborhood, which we can easily come to take for granted.

We notice how full with life the world is. There are people as well as creatures big and small all around us, each with their own goals and hardships. We are reminded that we are not alone in the world, that we are in communion with millions of others.

All we have to do to remind ourselves of this is to take a walk.

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John Mathews

John Mathews is a licensed psychotherapist in Virginia. In addition to working in his private practice, he creates digital therapy…

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