When watching the Olympics, many of us will feel a burst of inspiration, feeling motivated to get up and get moving.
But it’s not always so easy. Sometimes there are things on the mind that hinder our abilities. While not all of us are professional athletes, physical activity has many benefits, from improving our health and fitness levels, to easing stress and anxiety.
When you are going through a tough time, or living with a mental health condition, it can help to get outside and stretch your legs, though this can be difficult. If you are ready to talk, it can help to ask a friend, loved one or even a professional, to go for a walk with you. Here you are free to unwind, talk about whatever you like and get that vital time outside.
Counselling Directory member, Lynn Allars offers a ‘walk and talk’ counselling service, where clients can pick the time, the place and just take the session as an opportunity to talk. We ask Lynn her thoughts on walking, talking and how getting outside can benefit the mind and body.
Firstly, what are the benefits of having a counselling session outside? Do you think walking makes a difference?
“From a counselling perspective, the beauty of having a counselling session outside is that the client chooses where to talk. From the very beginning, the client is in complete control. The client has complete freedom. They choose the boundary – if they want to walk down by their local canal, they can. If they want to sit and talk in their favourite coffee shop, they can.
Being outside brings a new perspective to the client and how they are feeling. For example, if we are discussing family dynamics, we can see all the different families around us. It is all happening in the park we are sat – this ability to look around brings a new sense of awareness to the client’s feelings.
In terms of trust issues, this can be portrayed through the excitement of a dog running up to us. If we are sat on a bench and a dog runs up, we can observe the trust the dog has for humans. Similarly, we can observe how the owner reacts to the dog, and in turn, how they react to us.
Being outside allows the client to recognise what goes on around them. Take the seasons, for example. Just by sitting outside and watching, you see the seasons change, just like life does.”
While we know many of the benefits of physical exercise and mental health, how do you think the simple act of walking and talking can help?
“The benefits of getting outside are phenomenal. Just by getting outside and stretching your legs, breathing in the fresh air makes such a difference. In terms of mental health, talking a walk outside and watching the world go by, while talking about your feelings can be so helpful.
For example, if you are going through a relationship breakdown, being outside lets you express all of the negative feelings that consume you. Talking about what you are going through allows the negative thoughts to get soaked up by the river beside us. It’s almost as if you are being cleansed by the outside.”