Can walking in nature reduce anxiety?

Humankind lived in nature for 6 million years. Living with trees, water and weather is what we are naturally inclined to do. It's not surprising that when we walk in nature our bodies, our minds and even our deeper senses go to a place where they feel they belong.


It is generally accepted by most that exercise is good for you.

  • Regular exercise wards off illness by building fitness; reinforcing our immune systems.
  • Exercise slows down the release of stress-related hormones and stress increases the chance of illness (1).
  • Exercise encourages the stimulation of endorphins, creating a feeling of happiness (2).
  • Serotonin is boosted, adjusting mood, appetite, sleep and memory, but can also give you a feel good sensation (3).

What about your soul - your spiritual parts?

“I've even read of a study that has shown that using a walking treadmill 'workstation' while you work can be generally psychologically stimulating, boost satisfaction and reduce stress and boredom - apparently an exercise bike 'workstation' doesn't quite do it (4).”


Recent research at the University of Kansas has suggested if you walk in the country, amongst nature you receive an added bonus of a deep rooted spiritual uplifting effect to your wellbeing (5).

“The “soft fascination" of the natural world appears to refresh the human mind, offering refuge from the cacophony of modern life… Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses, therefore, we have resources left over — to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve — that allows us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others."

“It kind of makes sense. Mankind walked through grassland and trees gathering food for milions of years. The agricultural revolution gave us physically hard, dawn to dusk jobs, but at least we were outside. The industrial revolution took us out of the countryside. We have stopped strolling about in nature for a living (6).”


Does walking in sunshine, rain and wind allow more psychological space for you to be the true you; more relaxed - more in the moment - less anxious? Medical professionals and psychologists indicate that human beings have an inborn desire to be part of nature calling this phenomenon 'biophilia' (7).

“Apparently we only did our ‘job’ of gathering and hunting for 4 hours a day and for the other 20 hours, we just slept, relaxed and chilled with our mates. Recent change has been massive. Have we fully adapted in step? We may have been thrown in at the deep end.”


Life seemed very uncomplicated. What’s to get anxious about when life just rolls on gently? Life today can seem like a perpetual stressful struggle. Walking in nature rejuvenates mind, body and soul and I think it can also help reduce anxiety.


Footnotes

  1. US National Institute of Health (2014)
  2. Goldstein, Lowery (September 1975) Hughes, Smith, Kosterlitz, Fothergill, Morgan, Morris (1975)
  3. Dobbs (2009) Rapport, Green, Page (1948) Feldberg, Toh (1953)
  4. BACP Therapy Today (11.2014)
  5. Atchley, R.A. Atchley, P and Strayer, D. (2012)
  6. Harari (2014)
  7. Wilson (1990)

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