If this sounds a bit too ‘touchy feely’ tough luck, I’m a tree-hugging kinda person. I have worked in mental health recovery for over 15 years and to be honest one of the most effective ways to give recovery a helping hand is completely free, pretty easy and the chances are you are doing it anyway! This is how to walk your way to wellness.
Walk with someone
Being ill is usually very isolating, we often spend lots of time indoors and this can create a larger problem as we gradually feel less and less like seeing people and then less able to go out and so on –a bit like watching Netflix when you get so engrossed in a show it’s harder to just shut the laptop down!
Walking has a number of benefits in this scenario – the fresh air alone can help with better quality sleep for a start. Walking often allows for talking (or not) if you want to, and as no one ‘owns’ the space it can be a level place for a discussion. Walking with a special someone can encourage a bit of old fashioned hand holding which is often missing when you are feeling ill.
Walk with music
If you choose to walk alone, or with a dog (your own or borrowed) it can be a great time to listen to music or a good story, perhaps have a search for a good podcast. Music is a powerful mood maker. Music has the potential to make you cry, shout, sing along (who cares if the lyrics are made up) and at times be soothing.
Music that moves you in some way can be a real release for physical tension and if you up your walking pace then even better. Just remember to choose wisely for your walk if it’s in a very public space! Make sure you aren’t so distracted that you can safely cross roads even if you are perfecting some Uptown Funk dance moves.
Walk with purpose
Your brain in a new place will often feel the benefit of such freedom, you may find the space both physical and mental of walking allows time to reflect on something, to hash out an idea, to plan a conversation to write a shopping list.
If you want to walk with real purpose then you could start planning walks that include an errand – posting a letter, dropping a bag into the charity bin, walking to actually meet an old friend of a chat- little steps can lead to strides.
Walk and journal
Some of us find it impossible to switch off, so you might be reading this thinking what a waste of time walking would be when you could be doing something much more productive. One technique lots of my students have found helpful is journaling. While traditionally this is a pen and paper activity I have seen some truly beneficial photo journaling or sketch journaling if you are a tad artsy or fancy giving your creative skills the brush-up.
The link between our physical and mental health is very clear. Walking may be a good start to taking better care of your body as well as your mind. Nobody is saying you need to progress to become a marathon runner but there is always the chance that walking will lead you to other physical activities down the line.
Confidence can encourage you to start jogging, join a netball team or dust off the old bike in the garage, find what works for you, there is no easier start than one foot in front of the other.
After 15 years lecturing in mental health recovery, Claire decided to take some time to look after herself and her young family. She’s now running The Frugal Family to support families that want to save money while also saving the world.