Walk Off Depression And Beat Stress By Getting Outside For A Group Nature Walk

News yesterday from the University of Michigan that one of the best ways to deal with stress is to walk it off with a group of people comes at a bad time as winter approaches.

On the other hand this news is great incentive to get out for a breath of cold, fresh air, especially for those who experience seasonal affective disorder.

You see, new research confirms that getting outside, getting some exercise, and being around people may make you feel better—a lot better.

Turns out that group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress, and enhanced mental health and well-being.

The findings of this new research, which will appear in a special issue of Ecopsychology shows that people who had recently endured stressful life events experienced improved mental health after an outdoor group walk. Examples of the events studied include serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation, and unemployment.

“We hear people say they feel better after a walk or going outside but there haven’t been many studies of this size to support the conclusion that these behaviors actually improve your mental health and well-being,” said senior University of Michigan researcher Sara Warber, M.D.

Life is stressful and getting more so everyday. The world seems in turmoil, and the holidays are upon us. Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and–-when combined with nature and group settings– may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster.

Something as simple as joining an outdoor walking group can improve a person’s daily positive emotions and contribute to a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression, according to the researchers.

Group walks in local natural environments may contribute to improved overall public health, by providing accessible tools for coping with stress and generating improved emotions.

People have an inherent desire to be in and around nature. The phenomenon is known as the Biophilia, a concept introduced in 1984 by American biologist E.O. Wilson.

Most parts of the country still have some nice days before the winter chill sets in. No matter where you live, you can find a nice safe place to walk. So grab your coat, hat, and scarf; find some people to walk with’ leave the mall walking behind; and hit a nature trail. You’ll feel the better for it.

What’s your favorite place to walk? Share yours in the comments section.