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  • Andrew Keefe

Walking can lift your mood. Just that.

Updated: Jan 28, 2019


There is growing evidence that #exercise can help treat #depression: the #NHS recommends at least three thirty minute sessions of "vigorous" exercise a week to get the full benefit. (Vigorous here means exercise which raises your heart rate). To start to feel better, you don't have to be lifting massive weights at the gym or running marathons: simply going for a walk really can make a difference.


Exercise helps with depression in lots of ways, including releasing chemicals called endorphins into your system which will make you feel happier and more relaxed. Regular exercise builds your confidence and helps with self-esteem. This book by Dr Jane Baxter provides a programme you can do at home to work through and recover from your depression: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Jane+Baxter+Manage+your+depression


But something even simpler you could do right now, is to go for a walk: you don't need to join a gym or buy expensive running shoes, but it really could help. Sometimes, if you are sitting at home with your depression, negative thoughts will be running round in your mind, bringing you down and if you're on your own, there might be very little to distract you, nothing else to challenge these thoughts, nothing else to think about or take your interest, so you continue to spiral down, as that critical voice keeps nagging away and you brood on all your problems.


Standing up, moving and walking out of the front door and down the street really could make a difference. There is something about movement - the very act of putting one foot in front of the other, engaging with your surroundings and thinking about where to walk to next. At the very least, it can give you a break from a cycle of negative or anxious thinking but it also opens up new possibilities:


I can think of so many problems I have found a solution to by walking. Perhaps one part of the brain becomes exhausted and can no longer think creatively .When walking, I give it a rest by engaging a different part of the brain, allowing it to recuperate and find a new idea. Or maybe walking switches on a new area which gives me a fresh perspective.


You never know what will happen once you start to walk, what new ways of thinking, insights or perspectives might occur to you and help you with what your are wrestling with.


Many people find that its easier to talk to someone about a difficult or awkward subject while walking together rather than sitting opposite each other, so if you need to talk to someone in your life and it feels difficult, suggesting a walk might be a good place to start.


I can also think of occasions of loneliness, heart break, distress, grief and despair which have all been relieved by walking out the front door and going for a walk. These are times when we can feel helpless, out of control, vulnerable to forces beyond our control. In a small but significant way, walking can help you regain some form of control: being able to take a decision to go for a walk can restore a sense of agency and control over at least one area of your life. It may not sound much, but its something to build on.


If you're fortunate enough to live in or near somewhere scenic or interesting to walk, then of course take advantage of it. In my particular area of East London, we have Victoria Park, various canals and the river to take a stroll, but you would be surprised how many fascinating places you can find to walk round wherever you live: setting off for a walk without a destination or route in mind and seeing where you get to and find along the way can be a real joy. Websites such as #Timeout are full of great suggestions: https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/london-walks


There are so many parallels between #walking and #psychotherapy, that we use it as a source for our metaphors: taking the first step....journey....movement. And its true: once you start talking, you never know where it will lead, what new idea, thoughts or insights will occur to you, what you will discover and learn. Talking with a #psychotherapist can also help you express pain, distress, grief, anger, loneliness and other overwhelming emotions and combat the negative thinking you may be trapped with.


So whether its walking or talking or both, perhaps its time to take the first step.....

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