When you imagine going to therapy, you probably think about sitting in an office talking about your problems.
However, that is just one form of therapy.
Modern therapists incorporate techniques that don’t fit this model if those methods will help their clients. For example, some therapists provide walking therapy.
Research shows that walking therapy can be very helpful for certain clients. It gets you out into the fresh air with your therapist.
Oftentimes, you may walk along nature trails, reaping the benefits of nature’s healing power. As you get moving, not only can your mental health improve, but your therapist can also learn new things about you that are helpful to your forward progress.
You still talk and work through your problems, but you do so in a way that may work best for you.
Here are five key benefits of walking therapy.
1. Exercise Improves Mental Health
Numerous research studies have found that moderate exercise improves mental health. Getting your body moving can help get you out of your mind. It breaks up the rumination, moves around that restless energy, and heals you inside and out.
Many people have trouble fitting exercise into their day. Moreover, people struggling with certain mental health issues, such as depression, may find that low energy leaves them unmotivated to exercise.
Committing to the simple act of walking with your therapist is a great way to incorporate regular movement and therapy into your life.
2. Ecotherapy: Nature Heals People
The Biophilia Hypothesis says that humans have an instinctive need to seek out nature. In fact, humans have an innate love for living things. We benefit when we surround ourselves with natural life.
Walking therapy that takes place in nature gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the flora and fauna of an area. People with depression may have lost their love of life, but walking therapy can rekindle it.
Additionally, many people in today’s society feel a vague sense of disconnect. We are so hyperconnected through devices and gadgets, yet we lack connection with the natural world as well as our own inner wisdom. Ecotherapy, including walking therapy, can put you back in touch with your soul’s natural connection to the earth and all living beings.
3. Sitting in an Office Can Be Uncomfortable
Some people don’t do well sitting in an office and talking about their issues. For example, people who struggle with social anxiety may feel nervous in that one-on-one situation. In fact, research from the Academy of Finland shows that although eye contact can be a great way to bond, it can also be quite discomforting for some people.
Walking side-by-side with a therapist—to avoid eye contact while embracing the act of moving through space—can significantly reduce that tension. Therefore, people with social anxiety (or any form of anxiety that includes restlessness) may progress further in walking therapy than through traditional talk therapy.
Anyone with restless energy might similarly benefit. For example, people with ADHD may find it challenging to sit in a therapy office for an hour. Or people with phobias related to indoor may relax more outside. At the same time, people with fears and phobias about the outdoors can work gradually through walking therapy to confront and overcome those fears.
4. Your Physical Movement Reveals a Lot
You might be surprised by how much your therapist can learn about you by watching you walk through the world. People’s physical behaviors often mirror their mental states. For example, depressed people move sluggishly while anxious people may pace.
Your therapist may observe changes in your pace, posture, or breathing. They may be able to use those observations to highlight emotional issues you weren’t yet aware of.
Moreover, you may also be able to draw parallels and connect to helpful metaphors through the walking journey. For example, are you someone who likes to strictly follow a path or who prefers to veer off of it? A simple observation about this can lead to deep insight.
5. It’s a New Take on Therapy That Shakes Things Up
If you have tried traditional therapy in the past and it didn’t quite work for you, then you might need a different approach. Human brains seek novelty. New experiences help us make leaps and bounds in our personal growth. Therefore, by changing the situation and setting of therapy, you can create an entirely new experience of what counseling is all about.
Additionally, the rhythmic movement of walking might be therapeutic in and of itself. This type of movement has been proven to stimulate the connecting between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and, in turn, facilitates emotional processing. It’s the same basic foundation of EMDR work. In fact, EMDR founder Dr. Francine Shapiro discovered the process while walking.
Of course, walking therapy isn’t right for everyone. Call today with any questions that you have about how it may work for you.