If you feel sad, worried or anxious, one of the best natural remedies is walking. Give up, literally, from the source of the problem and immerse yourself in the natural environment. There is nothing better than a pleasant walk to relieve pain, get rid of accumulated stress and recharge the batteries.
In fact, it is well known that exercise, and especially walking, is a great therapy for the treatment of depression and anxiety. It has been shown that walking at a constant pace promotes the release of endorphins, hormones that make us happy and relaxed, while at the same time reducing the production of cortisol, stress hormones.
In addition, neuroscientists at the Princeton University believe that the effects of healthy walking go beyond the momentary production of some neurotransmitters, and believe that walking can even help regenerate the brain by helping us better handle and with less stress.
The “soothing neurons” in the brain
These researchers worked with two groups of guinea pigs, one group remained active, and the other one was intended for a sedentary life. After walking, the scientists analyzed their brains and discovered that in the animals that had been doing physical activity some neurons were activated that inhibited the activity of nerve cells that were too excited.
Then they added some environmental stress and found the activation of excitable neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in emotional responses.
These results, which neuroscientists also consider valuable for humans, could explain why walking helps us to relax and forget about worries and pains.
Everything indicates that when we walk, the brain activates the “calming neurons” that inhibit the level of excitation of the neurons that are the basis of the worries and the stress.
This indicates that physical activity helps to rearrange the brain, making it less likely that people who walk and engage in physical activity will regularly suffer from high levels of anxiety and stress will interfere less during their daily lives. Basically, walking improves the mechanism of inhibition that prevents the most excitable nerve cells from becoming overactive.
To get the maximum benefit from the hike, it is best to choose a path surrounded by nature
It is not the same to walk on a conveyor belt, between the four walls of a gym, in the city or in the middle of nature. Neuroscientists at Heriot-Watt University demonstrated this by monitoring the brain activity of 12 people while walking for 25 minutes in a shopping center, in a green space and on a busy street.
The mobile electroencephalogram monitored emotions and states such as frustration, meditation, enthusiasm, and attention.
Then they discovered that relaxation and meditation were more intense when the subjects walked through green spaces. These people also felt less frustrated.
This is because in green spaces our brain can be completely disconnected and activates what is called “involuntary attention”, which has the ability to move freely in a state quite similar to mindfulness meditation.
On the contrary, in the streets and shopping centers, we have to be more attentive, so we do not have the opportunity to disconnect ourselves completely from our worries and not allow our brain to rest.