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  • Writer's pictureLisa Griffin

Walk and Talk therapy



Walk and talk therapy is growing in popularity as an amazing form of therapy, for anyone, of any age or level of fitness, to benefit from. Exercise has been proven to improve mental health and recognised health benefits can be gained from nature.


Exercise

There is ever increasing evidence of how a little exercise, however gentle it is, can benefit anyone having difficulties with their mental health. We have discovered that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and by helping to lift negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as social withdrawal.

Your self-esteem and confidence may grow as you achieve the goal of getting up and doing something, no matter how small it may seem.

Sleep deprivation is something many people fall into a downward spiral with when their mood is low, which ends up making you fall further into the trap of feeling worse. At the end of a day often we may be mentally or emotionally tired, but our bodies or not, which can affect sleep, so some physical activity may help with getting you ready for sleep.

Here’s the sciency bit to explain why exercise helps - the levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine and stress hormones, change when you exercise. Walking helps your brain release endorphins, which brings about relaxation and improves your mood. Doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress.

In studies they have discovered how exercise can aid memory. Brain scans from an fMRI machine have shown that low-intensity exercise elevates activity in the hippocampus and surrounding brain regions, increasing processes known to support memory processing. It promotes neural growth, reduces inflammation, and creates new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being.


Nature

But Walk and Talk is so much more. It is a chance to re-connect with your outside environment and nature. How often do you pause your busy life - which is usually going a hundred miles an hour, responding to emails, keeping up with work and socials - to just stop, just for a short while? To notice how you can see the flow of the river or gentle breeze creating ripples on water’s surface, the smell of autumn leaves or fresh cut grass, the sounds of the birds, or to appreciate the way Mother Nature cleverly triggers different things during different seasons, to provide for wildlife and follow the natural flow of life cycles. To just stop and just be, in the here and now, and notice a universe that is quietly growing, changing and adapting all around you, all while you were busy in your modern life. If only you took the time to just stop and notice, and breathe and absorb.

Here’s another sciency bit - being outside releases endorphins that are mood-enhancing. It can support weight loss, lower blood pressure, boost immunity, speed up digestion, and improve heart health.

Walking among trees reduces levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, and can boost the immune system through breathing in phytoncides, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects.

Japanese researchers have studied “forest bathing” — a poetic name for walking in the woods. They suspect aerosols from the forests, inhaled during a walk, are behind elevated levels of natural killer or NK cells in the immune system, which fight tumours and infections. A subsequent study, in which essential oils from cedars were emitted in a hotel room where people slept, also caused a significant spike in NK cells.

It has also been discovered that there is a bacterium found in soil and that may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients who when in regular contact with soil reported a better quality of life and less stress.


At Avon Counselling we do also offer counselling in a counselling room, but if the thought of being face-to-face in a therapy room may not be for you, what is not to love about going for a walk with a friendly counsellor, who is there to listen to you and help you work through any issues?


So, why not try a walk and talk session, come outside for a gentle walk at your own pace, in a lovely setting by the river and theatre in Stratford upon Avon.


Note

To engage in walk and talk you must gage whether your level of fitness is suitable. The route is fairly flat and completely at your own pace, there are benches, and some toilet stops on the way.

Suitable footwear and clothing are required.

In adverse weather conditions (i.e. storms, torrential rain or severe heatwaves) sessions can be conducted in a therapy room instead or rearranged. However, a little rain, providing you are wearing suitable clothes, can be enjoyable to walk in (ever stopped and listened to the patter of rain on leaves or the river?).


Confidentiality

Obviously whilst being outdoors on your walk you may encounter other people from time to time, which isn’t a problem. If someone comes within earshot, who you may or may not know, and it makes you uncomfortable we can use a code word or phrase, to pause the conversation until they are out of earshot again.


To try a session or if you have any questions call 01789 292559 today, nature is quietly waiting for you.





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