Research shows that regular walks can help to manage anxiety and depression. For some people, learning how to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression can be the first step to healing your condition altogether.
Exercise is not the first thing people with depression want to do. The thought of a 5-mile run or gym workout is too grim to face. But most people walk every day – so adopting a walking program is a low-entry barrier you can use as a foundation for recovery.
Adopting a walking program as a form of exercise is simple. You can start by taking a longer route to work or setting some time aside each day to take a walk. In the evening after work would be a good time as it will help you to develop a new routine.
People with anxiety and depression are usually stuck in a rut – a habitual routine that influences cyclical behaviours. The world you experience, therefore, doesn’t allow you to grow and develop which eventually causes depression.
To have a fulfilling and enjoyable life, we have to feel as though our life is going in the right direction. We need a purpose and we need to feel we are safe. When you lose any of these, you become increasingly anxious.
The Connection Between Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are not the same energy but they are closely related. Studies show that anxiety and depression influence each other and keep people trapped in a vicious cycle.
Research shows that people with chronic anxiety usually develop depression. The ADAA notes, “nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder”.
Anxiety can start at any time of life, but for most people, the onset is during their teens. The relationship between the two can lock people into a permanent cycle or bouts of anxiety and depression for many years.
There are many reasons why anxiety and depression may occur and the root cause will be different for everyone. But there are patterns of thoughts and behaviour that often show up in patients with anxiety and depression.
People that often feel as though they are not good enough, that nobody likes them or they will never make anything of their life are most susceptible to anxiety and depression.
These thoughts are typical symptoms that you have given up on life – simply because you don’t have a purpose. When you give up on life it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that you are not good enough, you have no value to offer the world and you’re not loveable.
None of these stories that you tell yourself are true. For some people, life isn’t going in the right direction because you didn’t even try to achieve what you’re capable of – and what you’re meant to offer to the world.
For others, the cause of anxiety may be because you’re on the wrong path. As a result, you’re not happy with the life you are living. Again, the issue is that you are not fulfilling your life’s purpose.
The typical treatment for anxiety and depression is medication. However, pharmaceutical drugs are not proving to be a reliable cure for anxiety and depression.
Studies show that anti-depressants only work for between 40 to 60 per cent of people. However, pills mask the real problem and only make you “feel better”. 80% of patients treated with anti-depressants have a second or third bout of depression.
If you understand the causes of your anxiety, it can help you to overcome your depression as well. However, most people find themselves in a catch-22. You don’t have the energy or motivation to find your purpose in life and you’re too anxious to try something different – because we all fear the unknown.
This is precisely why walking is the best way to start healing your anxiety and depression. Walking is something you’re already familiar with, you have to do it every day anyway and it doesn’t cost anything.
But it does bring benefits that improve your mood and gives you time to think. So walking is an ideal way to help you to manage anxiety and depression.
Walking Releases Endorphins
Patients with anxiety and depression are known to have low levels of endorphins – neurotransmitters that occur naturally in the brain. Endorphins are known to be a “feel good” chemical that enhances your mood and sense of well-being.
When you have a stronger sense of well-being, your thoughts tend to be more positive and creative. In contrast, anxiety and depression lower your energy levels and influence negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness.
Positive thinking eliminates all the self-talk associated with anxiety and depression as mentioned above. The false idea that you are not good enough and will never achieve anything in your life etc.
Thinking positively also helps you to tackle life head-on – rather than putting things off until tomorrow or avoiding them altogether. Avoidance is an issue that has also been linked with anxiety and depression.
When you feel better within yourself – which endorphins deliver – you also feel better about yourself. With the right guidance and the right words, this promotes positive self-talk.
When you practice positive self-talk often enough the voice becomes louder than the voice that says you are not good enough etc. So walk to release endorphins and learn some mindset techniques that help you to view yourself with more respect and self-worth.
Walking Can Ease Worrying
Everybody worries about something at some point in their life. But people with anxiety and depression typically have overwhelming concerns that are blown out of proportion. Oftentimes, you are worrying about things you don’t really need to worry about.
Typical concerns are health anxiety, feelings of failure, and worrying about what other people think of you. Whilst these are all natural concerns, anxiety can make your mind create a mountain out of a molehill.
Most people have genuine concerns. The rise in living costs, job uncertainty, lingering fears around Covid, and whether the war in Ukraine will escalate further afield are all natural concerns to have right now.
But they are also out of your control. The knock-on effect of external events in your internal world causes you to create scenarios of doom and gloom. But they may never happen, and even if they did, there is always a solution that can make your life better if you approach the problem with creative thinking rather than worrying about it.
Anxiety disorders cause chronic worrying – and the concerns typically get bigger and bigger. Again, we have pulled back to the problem of negative self-talk and subsequently the need for positive self-talk.
Walking has been found to help clear your mind. In the absence of intrusive thoughts focused on worry, you’re able to see things in a different light. This is when your capacity for creative thinking kicks in.
Studies have shown that positive thinking is even more enhanced by nature. Although researchers are not 100% certain why nature has such a profound influence on our mood, it is clear from the data that immersing yourself in nature brings an uplift in mood.
As a matter of fact, the evidence of nature walks is a natural medicine for mental health is so overwhelming that physicians in the UK have started prescribing “green walks” to their patients.
People with an anxiety disorder also suffer from low self-esteem. The lack of confidence and self-awareness is what triggers negative self-talk. A lack of confidence is caused by feeling inadequate, rejected and less valuable than others.
Whilst there are mindset techniques that you should adopt to overcome the psychological causes of low self-esteem, joining a walking club or using walking exercises as a time to talk to your friends and family about things that really matter can help you to develop your confidence.
Self-criticism plays a major role in how you feel. So if you regularly have thoughts that you’re not good enough and nobody likes you, it knocks your self-confidence.
Moreover, this self-inflicted attitude influences your decision to stay at home and avoid meeting people. Deep inside you probably want to get out and meet people but clam up and retreat indoors when it comes to the crunch.
Starting a walking program enables you to attach a valid reason to go out and meet people or get together with friends you trust. You should take this time to discuss things that are concerning you or why you’re feeling low so that you can see things from a different perspective.
In addition, a walking program gives you a reason to set goals – which brings a sense of achievement and helps you to build self-confidence. The goals can start off with distance walking, then distance v time and trying to set new personable bests.
A brisk walking program can also help you to lose weight, so if you have a negative self-body image, set yourself weight loss goals. When you start seeing results, you will feel more confident and your anxiety and depression will gradually start to melt away.
How seriously you take a walking program will determine how difficult it is to get started – and keep up with regular practice.
You can get started simply by walking further than you ordinarily would in a day; taking the ‘scenic route” for example. Or you could walk to the shops rather than take the car.
It’s recommended that walking for at least 30-minutes at a time is sufficient to release mood-enhancing endorphins. Your general well-being can be boosted even more by having positive conversations with friends or listening to uplifting music whilst you’re walking.
If you’re setting weight loss goals as part of your walking program, rigorous exercise will get you faster results. High-intensity walking exercises such as brisk walking and nordic walking have been shown to burn more fat and calories quicker than walking long distances at a regular pace.
Experts say, walking 3-5 times a week can help to “significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms”. But setting yourself walking goals every day creates healthy habits that will result in better physical and mental health.
Download the Sweatcoin app
There’s no overnight cure for anxiety and depression. The benefits of walking will only be felt over time. But because walking is a low-entry barrier that you can make a good habit, devising a walking program is the first step to healing your condition.
To help you get started and measure your goals, Sweatcoin offers a free app you can download directly onto your mobile phone. The Sweatcoin app has a built-in pedometer that counts your steps – so it’s easy to set distance goals every day.
As an extra incentive, we convert your steps into digital tokens called SWC. You can spend these digital tokens with over 300 merchants that support Sweatcoin’s mission to promote technology as a tool to improve physical and mental health.
But we don’t just give SWC away that easily. You have to earn your money. You are only awarded 1 SWC for every 1000 steps you take. But given the average number of steps most people take in a day is around 3000, you will still earn 3 SWC going about your normal business.
However, the recommended number of steps you should take a day to optimise health is 7500. So if you set yourself daily targets to walk 7500 steps, you’re not only taking great strides towards healing your anxiety and depression, you’re also earning money you spend in the real world in exchange for goods.
The sooner you start a walking program the more you have to spend – and the sooner you free yourself from the grip of anxiety and depression.