Walking therapy

Walking reduces anxiety; the body becomes freer, and more healthy.  Photo by Matt Flores on Unsplash

Walking is an ancient thing.  Animals first moved around in liquid, and then began to achieve competence on dry land.  Eventually, we learned how to use limb extensions to propel ourselves over distance… and now here we are, humans, who can stand and walk on stilts.

It is second nature to us now, walking.  Our visual cortex is built to understand the subtle changes in perspective as we move.  This is one reason why we enjoy hills, woods, landscapes… it exercises our visual perception, and encourages us to understand the concepts of behind, before, showing, hidden, close, at distance.

Once our bodies are involved in the act of walking, our minds can think more gently and holistically.  We are not so trapped.  Walking often reduces the sense of panic, and helps us to feel more free, as though we have a choice where we go next.

Walking is therapy in itself. We become healthier: our heart, our blood flow, our joints, our skin… these, and many other organs and parts, enjoy moving through the open air, with increased oxygen, and a gentle need to supply the limbs with energy so that they can move well.

But, more than that, we can talk while we walk.  Somehow, thinking happens at a more even pace.  We are not so frantic while we are moving in the open air.  Some psychotherapists harness the healthy aspects of walking by offering ‘walking therapy’.  The therapist and client share a journey.  They negotiate obstacles and gates together, muse upon a joint perspective, and enjoy the flow of objects and surfaces around them.

Sometimes, in the open air, conversation comes more easily.  Silences are also more natural, as the sky, water and earth bring extra sounds to enjoy in between the words.

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Do I spend too much time sitting around indoors?  Am I starving my body and mind of its natural landscape, which it has enjoyed for millions of years?

Can I set aside regular time to get my body moving, either alone, or in the company of friends or colleagues?

Perhaps, out there, thoughts will come more easily, panic and anxiety will subside, and I will feel calmer, more at ease.

I was built to walk through the landscape – it is ingrained into my body.  When I go walking, I am in more direct contact with the earth, the sky, the water and wind.  No wonder I often feel better when I do it.

It is therapy to be outside in the open air, especially in natural landscape.  Even psychotherapy itself can be done while walking, allowing two souls to relax and enjoy the same journey, just for a while.