Let's take a walk (and here are 5 reasons why)
If you were to ask almost anyone to draw a picture of counseling, it would likely be two people sitting in an office, face to face, having a conversation. (Possibly, this picture might involve someone lying on a couch. But that’s not what I do at Insight Counseling!). But therapy sessions might be even more productive outside of the office, and here is why:
Your mood improves in nature.
Natural environments trigger positive emotional reactions. This is thought to be hardwired in our human brains because observing nature was important for humans’ survival. Beyond that, you likely have positive memories and associations with specific elements of nature. Maybe it’s the calm you feel at the beach or the sense of accomplishment in hiking. Possibly a park reminds you of carefree days of play or a sports field brings back memories of hard work and being a part of a team. When we integrate “walk and talk” sessions into your counseling, we collaboratively discuss and select a place that best suits you and your goals.
Being outside and moving is good for your physical health.
Much of our modern life has us sedentary and indoors. Who couldn’t use more physical activity in their day? While a “walk and talk” session isn’t so much about getting your heart rate up, it is a leisurely walk, it still has benefits to your overall physical health, which in turn aids your mental health. Calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body's fight-or-flight response; this is particularly beneficial for individuals with anxiety, as your sympathetic nervous system needs a rest.
Move your body, your thoughts will follow.
Counseling is all about creating change: change in how you think, how you feel, how you behave, and how you relate and connect to others. It is a creative process that requires a lot of cognitive flexibility and being able to consider things from a different perspective. The process of walking and creating movement with your body as well as a constant change in your field of vision seems to facilitate the creative thinking of counseling.
A 2015 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that walking in a park reduced blood flow to a part of the brain that the researchers claimed was typically associated with rumination (being preoccupied with depressing and painful thoughts). Being able to let go of these thoughts from the front of your mind allows space for the new ideas counseling generates.
Because nature is awesome.
Moments that produce awe lower coritsol levels. And being outdoors and interacting with our natural environment provides many opportunities to experience awe. Maybe you experience awe at the magnificent power of the ocean or the magical appearance of dolphins. The simple seasonal appearance of new spring blossoms or baby animals sparks joy and awe. And every one of these encounters lowers your physiological stress.
Increasing your connections (including to nature) fends off depression
While depression has many roots, a hallmark of it is a feeling of isolation and disconnection. Feeling connected to the world around you can have a grounding effect that benefits your mood. Having something pleasant to focus on, like trees and greenery, helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.
Interested in trying a walk and talk therapy session? Call 732-977-0375 to find out how it might benefit your unique needs or read here for more information about Jaime Malone, MA, LPC.