My version of walking therapy integrates three strong areas of research in the Health and Social Sciences: Environmental Psychology, Exercise Psychology, and Mindfulness.
Research on the health benefits of nature is one of the most robust findings in social and medical science. We know hospital patients recover more quickly if they have windows views to the outdoors. Students study better if they have a plant in their room. A healthy green space lowers stress, encourage self-reflection, and restores our attention. People can also add aerobic exercise or outdoor sports and adventure activities to build on these salutary (health-promoting) effects.
Nature-Based Stress Reduction
We also know that mindfulness and contemplation has many beneficial effects for mental and physical health, especially in our fast-paced, technology-heavy world. The combination of a safe natural setting and mindfulness is quite powerful. I call this “Nature-based Stress Reduction.”
Similarly, the importance of exercise and physical activity is well understood to improve physical and mental health, increase longevity and improve self-esteem. Walking is good for reflection and creativity. We know there are many stories of scientists making great discoveries when they leave their laboratories and take a walk and reflect. Well, we, like those scientists, also need to take a walk and reflect.
Walking therapy brings together these three strands: Restorative Nature, Physical Movement, and Mindfulness. This becomes “Active Nature-based Stress Reduction.”