We have all heard in the circles of the mental health world how taking a walk for your mental health can be a very useful thing and if you are like a lot of people myself included any time you heard that you would roll your eyes. How could going outside for a walk around the block fix what’s going on inside, the thought of even crawling out of bed sounds like a daunting task not to mention going for an actual walk outside. Whenever this was offered as an idea to me I figured it was some kind of misunderstanding. I never realized how useful of a tool it is.

When I was told for the first time that I should try and go for a mental health walk I thought my therapist was crazy. I had scheduled an appointment with her after coming out of a depression hibernation for the first time in months. I was mad, I was supposed to be getting help and the one thing I’m offered as a tool was a walk. I thought it was absurd and I told her such. It wasn’t until she broke it down for me that I truly decided to give it a try. She told me that a walk for my mental health will not fix everything, it will not cure my depression but it will get me active. She then went on to explain how the fact of getting my body moving and being outside was a change of scenery that would trick my brain into thinking of other things like what I was looking at on said walk. The trees and how they looked, how the weather was and anything else that was going on around me as opposed to the things going on inside me. Not only was this a grounding tool but getting active instead of lying around or watching Netflix all day gave my brain a dose of serotonin or the happy chemical. She told me that by going for a walk around the block I would be able to get in touch with the outside feelings.

I was experiencing not just the inside. She gave me a list of things to keep in mind while on my walk (once I finally agreed to go for one begrudgingly). How were my hands? Where by my sides, where they clenched into fists? Was I breathing? How was I breathing? How did the sun feel on my skin? All of these feelings that I should keep in mind also happened to be grounding body scan techniques. She also told me to keep an eye out for certain things on my walk like dogs or fire hydrants, to give my brain something else to focus on.

Once I had finally decided to go on my walk, it felt like the small five-minute journey around my block would never end. It felt like I was going to be walking forever, but once I had truly dedicated my mind to this walk I started to take in how my body was feeling on the outside as opposed to how the inside (my brain ) was feeling. Soon after I made sure to keep an eye out for a dog because at the time I only could remember one thing on the list. By the time I got home, I was no doubt tired, that was the most activity I had done in months. I promptly parked myself back in front of the TV shortly after arriving home but I did notice one thing other than being tired. I felt just a tiny bit better.

I brought this up with her at our next appointment the following week and told her that I had been going on another a few days later. She praised me telling me how that was a huge accomplishment and how good that was to hear. We spoke a little more about walks and exercise and how truly good it is for depression and other mental health concerns. We talked about how
I would make the effort to go for at least one ten-minute walk a week. Throughout the summer I did follow through with that plan. It was hard at first there was no doubt about that at all, but by a month or so in I found myself going for a bit longer walks to the point that I would go for walks twice a week for fifteen minutes. Before it was time to go back to school we talked about how much better I felt just by getting the activity in my schedule and how I did look forward to having some time to turn off the world and get in touch with my body and how I was feeling. I had even told her about how I was sort of looking forward to going back to school soon. Things slowly were starting to look up for me.

So I did learn a lot about little walks for my mental health that summer and though yes it will not fix it with one or two walks instead taking the time to find the motivation in me to take time for myself I would start to feel better. I know it may still sound crazy when I say this but going for a walk for my mental health did make a great impact on my mental health.

Written by: Spencer-Alexzander Wallenberg