What Environmental Factors Contribute To Mental Illness
Certain stressors can trigger an illness in a person who is susceptible to mental illness. These stressors include:
- Death or divorce
- Feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, anger, or loneliness
- Changing jobs or schools
- Social or cultural expectations
- Substance abuse by the person or the person’s parents
Walking For Health Tool Kit
While it’s true that, for most people with good mobility, you don’t need any specialist equipment for walking, there are certain types of footwear, such as proper walking boots or walking shoes, that can make it more comfortable, and ensure your feet are well supported.
There are other items you may want to consider for your daily walk too, such as an activity tracker, to see how far you’ve walked, and a water bottle to stay hydrated. If you’re walking indoors, you’ll be looking for a good treadmill, unless of course cycling is more your kind of indoor workout. In that case, take a look at our guide to the best exercise bikes .
Here are a few items worth considering for your walk, both indoors and out…
Exercise For Stress And Anxiety
The physical benefits of exercise improving physical condition and fighting disease have long been established, and physicians always encourage staying physically active.
Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. Or, if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Relationship of Exercise to Anxiety Disorders
Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, but anxiety disorders, which affect 40 million adults, are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the U.S. The benefits of exercise may well extend beyond stress relief to improving anxiety and related disorders.
Exercise as Part of Therapy
Resources – ADAA Member Experts
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Natural Boost Of Energy
A brisk walk to start your day can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Studies have found that regular exercise such as walking, can have a significant role in increasing your energy levels. It helps in reducing fatigue, keeping you feeling energised throughout your day.
The next time you feel tired when you wake up, lacing up your shoes and taking a walk can provide that natural boost of energy you may be looking for.
You Dont Have To Suffer To Get Results
Research shows that moderate levels of exercise are best for most people. Moderate means:
Cant find time to exercise during the week? Be a weekend warrior
A recent study in the United Kingdom found that people who squeeze their exercise routines into one or two sessions during the weekend experience almost as many health benefits as those who work out more often. So dont let a busy schedule at work, home, or school be an excuse to avoid activity. Get moving whenever you can find the timeyour mind and body will thank you!
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It Improves Your Heart Health
Lower blood pressure, improved blood circulation, and a reduced risk of heart disease a walk to start your day can be a great way to keep your heart healthy and prevent high blood pressure. The Heart Foundation found walking for an average of 30 minutes a day can lower your risk of heart disease by 35%.
Researchers found people who incorporate regular walking into their daily routine, have fewer heart attacks and strokes while also maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
Getting The Help You Deserve
Making the decision to start therapy can be difficult and confusing. Theres still stigma attached to talking about mental health, and it can be hard to learn how to navigate the system and find care.
You deserve care and support!
Here are some resources to help answer questions and offer guidance:
When prescribed for anxiety, medications are typically combined with some type of talk therapy.
Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed to be taken as needed. These medications are fast-acting, and have risk of addiction. Antidepressants, including both SNRIs and SSRIs, are for daily or chronic use, and can take time to achieve a therapeutic effect. Tricyclics are also used to treat OCD.
Anxiety medications can have side effects and should always be taken as directed by your doctor. It may take more than one try to find the right medication for you.
Even if youve learned how to manage anxiety, its a safe bet that youll experience some level of anxiety again in your lifetime.
Anxiety may crop up in response to events such as:
- loss of a loved one
- major life changes, such as marriage or a move
Your anxiety level is likely to fluctuate throughout your life, depending on whats happening or whats on your mind.
Remember anxiety is not inherently bad. It can help us be prepared for whatever comes our way. But when youre feeling anxious all the time and feel unable to calm down, this is a cause for concern.
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What You Can Do About Your Anxiety Right Now
When you feel anxious, it may help to acknowledge the fact that youre anxious. If you can, try and take a step back and consider the situation. Identifying who or what is making you anxious can be a useful coping tool.
During times of stress and alarm, it can help to remember that your feelings of anxiety should pass once the stressful event is over.
Here are a few things you can do to help lower your anxiety in the moment:
- Reach out to someone you trust for support. Sometimes, talking things through can help you gain calm and relieve anxious thoughts.
- Set boundaries. Try to practice saying no to work or personal requests if you have too much on your plate.
- Practice activities that might help calm or center you:
of moderate exercise a week for most adults.
A 2019 study found that this amount of exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
How Does Walking Help Anxiety
Walking also improves anxiety by the very fact it gets us outdoors. We know that spending time here can be very beneficial for mood plus, calm, nature-filled areas may help to settle some anxiety.5
Thinking more generally, we know that walking can improve anxiety because it gives something else to think about and focus on. It’s even a form of meditation, in its own way, as we begin to focus on rhythmically putting one foot in front of the other.
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Walk Off Your Anxiety
I woke up feeling stressed today. I hadnt gotten enough sleep, so that was probably the main cause, but Ive also been unusually busy with work. As I got up and started to move around, I could feel the telltale flutter of anxiety in my chest. It wasnt tied to anything specific that was going on it was just there.
Unless I did something about it, it was going to bother me all day. I had enough to do already. I didnt need or want that yucky anxious feeling following me around.
As Ive written about before, low blood sugar can cause anxiety symptoms. Id already had some food with a good dose of protein and fat, so that likely wasnt the cause today. Id also done my morning mindfulness practice, but still felt off. What else could I do, to change how I was feeling? I decided to go for a power walk.
There hasnt been a lot of rigorous, well-designed research about the impact of walking on clinical anxiety. However, a 2018 review article that looked at 15 randomized controlled trials found that aerobic exercise was indeed effective, especially if done at a higher intensity level.
I often share the story of a trauma expert whose lecture I attended at a conference. She told the whole audience that she suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and that her mandatory morning exercise routine was the one thing that kept her anxiety at bay. If she exercised first thing, it was as if her anxiety wasnt even a thing.
How To Use Walking To Improve Your Relationships
Walking together for a half hour or an hour leads naturally to conversation, sharing, and the time it takes to finally spit out what is on your mind. My husband and I enjoy pre-dinner walks where we can decompress from the stresses of the workday, as well as plan upcoming adventures.
You can build your walking habit by walking together. This is a great way to stay motivated to keep walking. I know of couples who wouldn’t let each other “get ahead” of them in the number of volkssport walks they completed.
Walk with your children and your grandchildren. Special hours spent alone with one parent and one child can make lasting bonds and memories, especially for children who always had to share their parents with other siblings. A long walk is a perfect way to spend quality time together, not distracted by meaningless “entertainment.”
It is easy to make new friends on the trail. You will often find yourself walking with some new and interesting person, or renewing relationships with old friends. Walkers form an instant community, and you can soon meet new friends of every age. Walkers have in common the joy of walking and a willingness to go places and see what is there.
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The Science Behind Why Walking Is So Calming
The part of the brain that controls anxietythe amygdalais one of the oldest, most primitive parts of the brain. This “anxious” part of our brain is really simple. It’s a mono-tasker that can do only one thing at a time. And walking has been shown to actually shut down the anxious mechanism, so while we’re walking, the anxious part of our brain can shut off a bit.
Being Outside Is Great For Busting Stress
The simple fact of being in the fresh air makes you feel better. Part of it is that your body produces vitamin D in the sunshine. This essential vitamin has been linked to stress management. It takes extra vitamin D to make it through stressful times unharmed. Make sure that you soak up the sun.
The sunshine isnt the only thing that helps you bust through stress. The improved air quality and the added oxygen of being outdoors are beneficial. Being in a forest, a park, the beach, or other natural settings has a relaxing effect. The Japanese call it forests bathing, and it has been proven to reduce your blood pressure and help you calm down. Want to outsmart stress? Get outside more.
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It Reduces Muscle And Joint Pain
Getting out of bed in the morning can be a difficult task for some due to muscle stiffness and joint pain. Walking in the morning can help protect your joints through lubricating and strengthening the muscles around the joints, adding to the long list of benefits of morning walking.
As you age, chronic illnesses such as arthritis can become a prevalent issue. As walking is a low-impact activity on your joints, it can be a great way to relieve arthritis pain, stiffness and swelling.
Before starting your day with a walk, be sure to incorporate stretching as part of your routine. Whenever you start any kind of new exercises, it is important to listen to your own body and speak to your local GP before undertaking a new exercise routine. Hope these benefits of morning walks help!
Does Walking Every Day Actually Help And Is It Realistic I Put It To The Test
Reeling off the benefits of taking a daily walk is all well and good, but it assumes that you can muster the motivation to get dressed and leave the house.
For the last two weeks, I attempted to go on at least one 20-minute walk a day, on top of occasionally cycling to and from the gym, where I would do other forms of exercise.
I must admit, I was off to a rocky start: it was pretty hard to get myself to go on a daily walk in the depths of winter when I could barely find the strength to work from my desk instead of my bed some days.
At first, I was only able to will myself to go for a walk when I had a destination to go to somewhere I would have been going to anyway, usually on my bike.
While I wouldnt say this is bad a walk is a walk, after all having somewhere to be for a designated time didnt feel as beneficial as a stroll around the block.
Although it did give me a good energy boost and I arrived at my destination feeling the effects, I felt that I was distracted, sometimes even rushing, and I didnt have time to take in my surroundings or really think.
So, I decided Id take a route around my neighbourhood during my lunch breaks.
There isnt much nature around where I live, about 10 minutes walk from the centre of Manchester, but I did manage to walk by the river that borders a block of uniform newbuild flats.
Some days I opted to listen to nature sounds on Spotify, but other days the sound of the city humming was more than enough.
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Benefit : Moving Up To Jogging
Someday, if possible, walking could also lead to jogging, and jogging can also help reduce anxiety levels. Jogging for long distances actually releases neurotransmitters that reduce stress and anxiety, while also reducing levels of some of the hormones that are linked to anxiety symptoms.
Jogging is a great goal in the long run. But it’s often hard to jog if you haven’t first gotten used to walking often throughout the day. So you start by walking more and more often, and then if you’re feeling healthy enough and ready you can progress to jogging.
How Can I Turn My Walk Into A Meditation
For many people, meditation is so intimidating because it can be scary or uncomfortable to sit in silence with your thoughts. Thats why incorporating mindfulness practices into movement can be a helpful strategy.
Mindfulness allows the mind to come back to the present rather than living in the future or the past.
Typically when we do physical activities like walking, our mind is elsewhere. We are thinking of emails we need to send or what we need to check off on our to do lists of ruminating on something someone said or did, said Mattingly. It is beneficial to do any activity mindfully because it brings body and mindfulness together. As we walk, we feel our feet touching the earth we feel the sensation of the ground meeting the feet, each step can then become our destination. Mindfulness allows the mind to come back to the present rather than living in the future or the past.
So to start, simply be intentional about walking, Dragonette advised. This may feel strange as most of us walk on auto-pilot and are often tuned out, but try to focus your intentions on walking during this moment, she said.
If youre convinced that a mindful walk may be just what the doctor ordered, here is a simple check-in to do with yourself that next time you lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement.
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Why Are Walking And Meditation A Great Combo
Yes, walking is a great form of physical exercise, but its also a great opportunity to practice mindfulness, too. Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, without judgment, said Mattingly. Dragonette added that it also entails being aware of ones body, mind and feelings.
For those that find it difficult to be in the present moment, or are skeptical about the benefits of such a practice, combining movement with your mindfulness practice can be a game changer. Mindful walking is an easy way to incorporate meditation into everyday life and can be an easier way for beginners to learn how to practice mindfulness versus a seated meditation, explained Dragonette.
Happiness is an inside job. When we can find peace internally, we are less shaken by the outer world, no matter what it throws our way.
Laurasia Mattingly, meditation and mindfulness teacher
Exercise and meditation both work to accomplish similar outcomes, so engaging in them simultaneously is a one-two punch when it comes to boosting our mental health. Both regular exercise and mindfulness are proven ways to help with issues like stress, as well as support the treatment of anxiety and depression. Practicing walking meditation regularly can help one be more connected to their body and surroundings while simultaneously making them happier and healthier, said Dragonette.