Walking has very much been a theme of mine all year. At the back end of 2016 I decided I wanted to broaden my practice in a more creative way and in one of those weird moments of synchronicity, a client sent me an article on “Walking Therapy”. I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of it, but the concept resonated with me and I felt it was a good fit for me in terms of my next steps (ooh a walking metaphor!!).
What is Walking Therapy?
Walking therapy is essentially taking your therapy or counselling outdoors. Instead of sitting face to face with your counsellor, you walk side by side, discussing your issues as you walk in nature. There’s something quite freeing about being outdoors and this often gives clients greater space both mentally and physically to ponder their lives and work things out. Furthermore, being outdoors is the perfect backdrop for just being “in the moment”. When I notice a client becoming anxious because their issues and thoughts are spinning out of control, I will ask them to stop and be mindful of the environment around them. I’ll perhaps get them to focus on a particular view or flower. This momentary pause allows clients to gather themselves, creating space around their thoughts and calming the mental chatter. Being outdoors in nature also allows clients to see quite clearly that there is a world outside of their problems and this can give client’s renewed hope and alter their perspective. We can all feel hemmed in and stuck but walking outdoors opens up our lives and our thoughts facilitating a sense of hope and new possibilities. Clients can set the pace which can make for a very dynamic session allowing the person to feel energised and motivated. Alternatively, clients can choose to take things slowly, meandering through nature allowing their thoughts to come and go gently. This can give time and space to reflect on life and how people want their lives to be. By doing counselling differently people realise they can live their lives differently too. They have a choice.
There is much research to show the benefits of walking in nature and taking your counselling outdoors.
On a personal note, at the start of 2017 I embarked on a challenge to walk 1000 miles during the year. It was roughly 3 miles a day or 20 miles a week for the whole year. It was a revelation!! It really opened my eyes to what was around me and it was fascinating. I loved watching the landscape change as a new season emerged then faded! I loved the metaphors attached to nature. Seeing the new growth in the Spring turn into the full bloom of summer. I’ve noticed the impact of walking on my mood and my overall sense of well-being and I knew that this was something I would continue long after the challenge was over. To be able to combine such a great activity with a job I love is fantastic! I feel very lucky.
This year has brought new challenges and I think it’s fair to say that many of us suddenly relished the idea of being outside when we were told we couldn’t. The idea of just one hour of exercise outside! Whilst lockdown has been difficult it has been lovely to see how many people have benefitted from getting outside more either by themselves or with their families. I think many of us will have seen the difference a walk in nature makes to our overall sense of well-being.
In counselling we often talk about “being on the right path” or “mountains to climb”. To be able to illustrate that physically really adds to the experience and consolidates the ideas being discussed. So if you have your own mountain to climb or want to know if you are on the right path consider walking therapy. https://www.manchestermindmatters.co.uk/walking-therapy
It really is a great way of “walking back to happiness” and the views are lovely up here!