Adding a little mindfulness to a normal, regular walk helps to fight stress and anxiety, new research finds.
People report less stress when they are moving around and even less when they move around mindfully, the psychologists found.
Mindful walking means being present in the moment while walking and could involve:
- Being more aware of the surroundings — noticing and appreciating things.
- Allowing thoughts about the past and future to fly away.
- Concentrating on the breath going in and out.
Dr Chih-Hsiang Yang, the study’s first author, said:
“It can be difficult to ask people to spend a lot of time doing moderate or vigorous activity by going to the gym or out for a run, especially if they feel stressed.
But if they don’t need to change their everyday behavior, and can instead try to change their state of mind by becoming more mindful, they can probably see this beneficial effect.
You don’t need to exert a lot of extra effort in order to improve your wellbeing by being more mindful while you’re moving around.”
Not everyone can find the time or motivation for strenuous exercise, said Professor David Conroy, study co-author:
“If someone is looking for a way to manage these kinds of feelings, it may be worth trying some sort of mindful movement.
This option may be especially beneficial for people who don’t enjoy exercise and would prefer a less intense form of physical activity.”
The conclusions come from a study of 158 people who used a mobile phone app that randomly sampled their experience over a two-week period.
The results showed that the more mindful people were in the moment, the lower their stress and anxiety levels.
Dr Yang said:
“When people were both more mindful and more active than usual, they seem to have this extra decrease in negative affect.
Being more active in a given moment is already going to reduce negative affect, but by also being more mindful than usual at the same time, you can see this amplified affect.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise (Yang et al., 2018).