Walking and talk therapy: makes nature sense
Going outside is a proven feel-good. Uncomplicated and forgiving. Combining talking therapy with walking outside takes advantage of these benefits and offers an alternative approach to traditional talking therapy.
What is walking therapy?
It's therapy outside. I often sit with my clients on a big tree trunk, shaded by a canopy of leaves. Other times we just walk around the park and depending on the time of the year can grab a few blackberries on the way. Therapy outside is all about you, but it's making you feel better through talking, but also walking in a positive surrounding. It helps with perspective so often and provides you with an introduction to doing the same, going for a walk - without your therapist.
So what's behind it all? Research from all over the world is showing that people who spend quality time in green space have fewer health complaints and live longer and that the green space itself is a stress buffer, helping people cope better with life’s adversity. Other studies have found that invisible chemicals (called phytoncides) in some trees can reduce stress hormones, lower anxiety and improve blood pressure and immunity. It can also help us sleep deeper and actively help us to 'sleep ourselves well'.
We all know instinctively that being outdoors provides us with the benefits of getting natural sunlight, which comes in the form of much-needed vitamin D. What we may not know is that being outdoors in the sunshine provides our system with a natural stabilisation of hormones - especially melatonin levels; a super healer and regulated of our system. Unfortunately, melatonin is what is destroyed when you spend a lot of time looking at screens.
Talking of tech, studies have shown that screen time is associated with increased fatigue, depression, anxiety, ADHD in children, and poor concentration. Enter the Japanese researchers who have found that people who lived closer to or near forests had significantly lower rates of lung, breast, uterine, prostate, kidney, and colon cancers. The health improvements of walking in forests have even led them to open 'Forest Hospitals' with astonishing recovery for the patients - even needing less medication! So wouldn't it make sense to want a little of that?
What happens if you're based in a city like London? - not exactly the amazon. The good news is that nature benefits us even if it comes in little urban pockets. In fact, in the city, there’s even a greater need to connect outside - and outside of yourself.
Walking therapy opens up your options. Online, in-person...but also outside. Walking, talking, so you feel not just good - but double good.
If you don't have a park, it can be a river or the coast. Walking and talking is beneficial, but do make sure your therapist has trained for walking and talking therapy and that they're insured to do so. You can search for therapists on Counselling Directory and discuss options for working outside.
"I felt so much better after having met with Fiona outside as opposed to the usual therapy rooms. (I was even able to take my dog!) It was empowering."
"I loved my session outside, it was so relaxed and easier to talk there. We sat in the shade on a really warm day, drinking water and chatting. I felt really hopeful afterwards."
Another client combined both online and being in the park by talking to me on his phone, while I too was outside, he said, "It was such a great session, refreshing and afterwards I was really able to process, surrounded by the trees and flowers in the park".
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