Recently research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has suggested that people who regularly partake in exercise during their free time are significantly less likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety. The same study reported that physical activity that was just a part of day to day life did not have the same effect. This could potentially be indicating that the intention of doing exercise is required in order for it to have the positive impact on psychological wellbeing.
In another study reported in the Mental Health and Physical Activity journal, the intensity of exercise was examined to establish if this is the deciding factor as to whether a physical activity can change mental states. It was reported that something as simple as going for a brisk walk could help warn off depression to the same extent as other more vigorous exercises. This could also be an indication that it is the intention to do some physical activity rather than the intensity.
Mindfulness walking has previously been shown to enhance physical and emotional wellbeing. Mindful walking requires a person to set the intention to attend the movements, become aware of how the feet impact the ground. As mindfulness walking is practiced, the practitioner can then extend their awareness to their surrounding environment, they can direct their awareness to how the breeze might be brushing past their hand or face. They can also listen to the sounds of their environment or extend their awareness to the sound they can hear that may be furthest away.
In order to walk mindfully, the individual’s mind must be completely present and be in tune with their moment-by-moment experiences. Depression, by its very nature is controlled by the mind’s thoughts and emotions about past events. Subsequently, depression can not exist if someone is mindfully living in the present moment. Mindful walking, if it only achieves this for a split second is one small step to breaking the control of depression.
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