Walking has always been a natural activity for human beings, and its correlation to physical health has been known for centuries. But more recently, we are beginning to understand the important role that walking can play in mental health and overall well-being.
Recent studies have shown that walking effectively counters stress, increases energy and motivation, improves self-image, helps dissipate negative states of mind, improves sleep, and reduces anxiety and depression. In fact, for some people walking can be more effective than antidepressants in improving their overall mood. At the same time, walking — a "bilateral therapy" — engages both sides of the brain for optimal function and heightened creativity.
My clients are attracted to walking sessions for many reasons. Some find that exercise improves their alertness and concentration, resulting in more lasting effectiveness of therapy sessions. Space and motion can facilitate clearer thinking and broader perspectives on whatever issues are occupying their minds. Others feel that walking helps them get "unstuck," see more possibilities, and make progress toward their goals. Walking is literally moving forward.
Many people appreciate the chance to experience the healing power of nature, as well as the effect of the weather on their moods. Without this kind of exposure, human beings suffer what ecopsychologists call "nature deficit disorder" — a lack of connection with the natural world.
Those who have experienced loss know that grief can feel especially heavy, and that walking outdoors can counter that heaviness and make them feel more alive. And for new parents, there is the added convenience of being able to bring their babies along while taking care of themselves and alleviating postpartum depression or stress.
Walks are always at the client's pace and tailored to any level of fitness. And benches along the trails in Tilden Park offer a chance to sit when desired.
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