There’s lots of different types of walking, and most often we do it to get ourselves somewhere we need to go, such as to work or school or to an appointment of some kind. This means that walking can often be a hurried means to an end, more so than a mindful or peaceful act.
Taking some time to walk, just for the sake of walking, and without thinking too much about where you’re going or why, can be an act of self-care. If you go alone, it’s a type of walking that is just for you and time spent only on yourself – although it’s important to make sure you’re safe, too. Letting someone know that you’re going on a walk will reassure others that you are not lost or missing. Walking with friends or people you are close to you can help as well, as it gives you a space to talk that doesn’t feel too claustrophobic or pressured.
Some apps and websites can help with walking. This 10 minute walking meditation is just one of many you can find online.
What young people have told us:
'I think it helped because it makes you feel as if you're being productive, especially if you're stressing out about work. Also it gives you space away from the other things which are occupying your mind and it doesn't make you feel guilty or even more stressed, which other ways of distracting yourself, such as going on your phone, might.'
'Yes, the walking helped but less the mindful aspect of it. I think it's more helpful to go out as and when you feel like it (e.g. when you're feeling stressed and need a break) rather than trying to stick to a regular time every day.'
'Walking helps as it gets you out of the situation that was creating pressure/anxiety etc. If I know I can go for a walk afterwards, it is easier to get through a situation. Walking with other people is also a good opportunity to talk about things like mental health or other issues with friends or caregivers, as you don't have to be face-to-face with them, which can make hard conversations harder. Walking also feels like you are doing something productive, which is useful if you've had a bad day.'
'If you can make it an everyday thing that you can just go and do, it is a good way to relieve stress, but if you don't know where to go, or if you can't get permission to go, this can become a further source of anxiety.'
There isn’t much academic research in the area of self-care for young people who are living with mental health issues. We are trying to find out more about what works for different people so we can better advise other young people what to try.
If you’ve tried this activity when you were struggling in relation to your mental health, please let us know if it helped you and how by clicking on the ‘Did this activity help you’ button.