One of our favorite things about our practice is that we offer park therapy. It’s definitely a different counseling experience-both for the client and for the therapist. It sometimes allows more space for big, intimidating conversations. Especially ones that might include the phrase “I’ve never told anyone this before but….” Other times, it’s just one of those ways to enjoy a beautiful day.
On its face, there may be some obvious benefits to park therapy or what is also sometimes called walk-and-talk therapy. You get to be in the fresh air and (usually) enjoying sunshine, soaking up that Vitamin D people love to talk about. It gets your body moving, even if it’s low impact. Most people recognize that for some people, it can be easier to talk when you’re side-by-side than sitting across from someone in the office. All of these things about park therapy are true.
A few surprising benefits of walking therapy from a St. Louis, Mo Therapist.. They’re pretty cool!
1.) You can experience an increase in self-esteem.
This is one of the first things I learned as a benefit when I was researching walking therapy and what I might not know about it. For some reason—maybe because improving self-esteem can sometimes be a long journey that takes hard work and patience—it hit me pretty hard. “What? From just walking with someone else? Even in a first or second session with someone they just met and in a professional capacity?” Yes! As it turns out, keeping pace with someone not only regulates your physiology (heart rate, blood pressure) but also can do some brain rewiring and increase self-esteem. And honestly, I think we can all use a boost in that department, even just once in a while. So even if you’re not coming to therapy for issues in self-esteem, it’s a pretty cool supplemental benefit.
2. ) It encourages mindfulness.
Okay, so, I know some people hear the term mindfulness ( what is mindfulness? Click Here to learn more from The Mayo Clinic.) and think “oh gosh, more of THAT?! Can’t we find something new already?” I hear you. I see you. Heck, I’ve *been* you. But here’s the thing about mindfulness once you become juuuuust open enough to lean in.
You realize it works. It actually does what you wish something existed to help you do: be more chill; be more patient; keep things in perspective; not get so worked up; feel happier; feel more fulfilled.
The hard part about mindfulness is that it takes some practice at the beginning. It’s not as though (unfortunately) you decide to start engaging in it and snap, you’re good at it. You have to adjust---your brain, and your body, and your expectations. And that’s a really hard process, especially as an adult. Because we don’t often really learn new things as an adult so we’re out of practice on how to be new at something.
So, one of the tricks there is to set yourself up for success. And one of the ways to do that is to be outside. “Outside” is an environment that works with you to slow you down, create perspective, inspire awe and gratitude, and a whole host of other things….that environment is a great bridge to more regularly practicing mindfulness.
(For more tips and tricks on how to starting practicing mindfulness through the tool of meditation, check out this blog we wrote awhile back: https://www.marblewellness.com/post/the-practice-of-meditation-6-tips-to-successfully-get-started.)
3) Nature and movement help stimulate a more relaxed state, making it much easier to talk and share.
Our Marble Wellness team recognizes just how much it can take to even call us to get something set up. (Honestly, that’s why potential clients can email us or even book directly online; it can sometimes be too overwhelming to call and we don’t want that to be the reason you don’t set up an appointment. You deserve to feel better and we’re SO here for you!) Then, you have to come in for the first session! That is a lot! Clients so often have a pretty major internal dialogue before their first counseling session, the intensity of which can be enough to have them change their minds and not get started:
- “What are we going to talk about?”
-“Am I going to cry? Ohmygosh, what if I cry?”
-“Is my therapist going to think I am crazy? They are for sure going to think that.”
-“Am I actually ready to talk about this? What if they say I have to change everything to feel better? I can’t do that.”
Or, maybe after their first few sessions, they are feeling comfortable but haven’t quite gotten to the part yet that they want to talk about but is overwhelming or intimidating to say out loud.
Walking therapy can help put at ease SO much of that. It can wonderful as a clinician to see a client’s demeanor change in a park therapy session. Silences maybe grow more comfortable, body language relaxes, thinking about what you’re about to say may become less intense. The point is: being outside, especially in a beautiful setting, plus actually moving, creates a more natural state of relaxation which can impact the therapy process in a really helpful way.
4) Both literally and figuratively, clients experience a sense of “moving forward” on their issues. Walking Therapy also can encourage clients to approach their challenges with a greater sense of power and influence over them.
The mind-body connection is so prevalent. So real. So, let’s use it to our advantage! If a client chooses to participate in park therapy, they can get the benefits of rewiring their brain, simply by walking! It can shift your perspective in how you see a problem or how you even view your ability to solve or overcome it. You can feel more capable. There’s an internal shift in how you see yourself vs your challenge. It often decreases in the amount of anxiety it produces, while you experience an increase in confidence.
5) It promotes clearer thought processes and open-minded brainstorming abilities
Ok, so maybe this is more 4b than a number 5. It at least seems to go hand-in-hand with the above.
Here’s the thing about both moving (walking) and being outside: it promotes your brain to work differently. And when your brain works differently, that means there is the potential for whole, brand-spanking-new solutions to present themselves to you…all from moving!
It’s almost like a different version of “sleep on it”, which is also a very real idiom that comes from neuroscience.
So, when you’re facing a problem, or challenge, or pesky thought process that just won’t seem to budge, just move on it!
Did you also know that exercise (and walking is included in that!) is one of the only three ways your body and brain metabolize cortisol? Coritosl is the stress-hormone. Your body releases more of it when you’re feeling stressed and/or anxious. The presence of this in your brain and body can also mean the stunting of certain functions of your brain—your brain can’t access creative thinking if it is focusing on survival, even if that survival is “psychological” in nature. So, ipso facto (I have no idea what inspired me to use that phrase there but….did it work?!?!), decreasing cortisol is a great idea to allow your brain to function in creative thought processes again.
BOOM! There you go. Five surprising benefits of walking therapy.
Ready to get scheduled with your own walking therapy? Reach out today and we will get you scheduled!
(*Note/Disclaimer: the first/initial session we have with clients we always do in the office or virtually, for paperwork and basic note-taking purposes, but it is ON after that!)
Additional Counseling Services at Marble Wellness in St. Louis, MO and Chicago, IL
Counseling services designed to help set you on a path of living a more fulfilled, calm, and happy life. We specialize in anxiety, depression, grief, chronic illness, therapy for men, couples, and maternal overwhelm. We can also help new moms with various postpartum concerns, moms in the thick of parenting, and moms with teens. We can also chat from wherever you are in the state with online therapy in Missouri and online therapy in Illinois. No matter where you are in your journey, we would love to support you.