Walking for our well-being, how can walking improve our mental health and relieve depression? This week we walked up Pen Y Fan, one of Wales highest peaks in the Brecon Beacons. It wasn’t a gruelling walk but it took our effort and energy to get to the top. We sweated and cursed, tripped and stepped in sheep poo along the way. Similar could be said for the many other people doing the same journey. But this got us thinking, why bother? And how does this relate to mental health?
- Social connection: Unlike a trip down your local high street almost everyone said hello, and had an encouraging word to say to one another.
- Sense of achievement: We couldn’t help but feel just a bit smug and proud of ourselves.
- Sense of awe: The scenery was beautiful and we could see for miles.
- Movement: The physical exertion of walking and climbing boosted those feel-good endorphins.
- Demands on our attention: ‘Soaking up’ our surroundings in a gentle way. Apart from sheep poo, there were no immediate dangers like cars to think about, there were no loud, cacophonies of noise for our ears and brains to deal with.
- Rewards and photographic memories of an enjoyable day will remind us of good times later on.
If you’re feeling low in mood, going out for a walk can help. It doesn’t have to be Pen Y Fan, it can be your back garden or local park. Research continues to show that walking in nature can help with symptoms of depression, especially compared with walking in built up areas (Berman et al., 2012). You might think, well I’m still going to be thinking about the same rubbish. That might be true, but nature can give you that bit of a break you need to carry on with your week!
Berman, M., Kross, E., Krpan, K., Askren, M.K., Burson, A., Deldin, P.J., Kaplan, S., Sherdell, L., Gotlib, I. H. & Jonides, J. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 140, 3, 300–305.
Article written by L.J Davies – Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist- Cheltenham, England.