Walking Can Boost Your Mood, Even When You Don’t Expect It To
There are lot of ways to improve our mood. You can listen to music, eat great food, or even talk to friends.
And here’s one of the simplest methods of lifting your spirits:
Simply go for a walk.
And a recent study says that walking can boost your mood, even when you don’t expect it to. And the reason why has a big part to do with our evolutionary background.
Why Does Walking Boost Your Mood?
Walking is been proven to be an excellent way to improve your mood – or in psychological terms “positive affect”.
And there are many reasons why. Because you’re experiencing nature, social contact, progress being made towards fitness goals, or the expectation of doing something productive with your time. One recent study even shows that our mental health is affected by the amount of sunlight we get.
Despite all of these reasons, a couple of researchers believe that it could be the simple act of walking and nothing more.
They argue that positive emotions are actually linked with our movement. A theory that touches on another psychological concept known as “embodied cognition”. Or the idea that our thoughts and feelings are affected by what our body does.
From an evolutionary standpoint, movement was closely linked with searching or hunting for food, shelter, and water. To our ancestors, movement meant reward and survival. And no other psychological reason needs to be present to generate positive emotions other than simply walking about.
The researchers believe they’ve made a pretty important contribution showing this is the case. They even write in their paper that their experiments:
are the first to document a casual effect of routine ambulation on positive affect.
Which is just a fancy way of saying that walking can cause positive emotions.
Moving For Happiness
To test their theory the scientists ran a series of experiments and published their results in the journal Emotion.
As is sometimes the case, they needed to be a little sneaky. They couldn’t let the subjects know what was going on, for fear that it would affect the results. So in each of the studies the researchers never let the subjects know what was truly going on.
The first study found that students reported a more positive mood when taking a walking tour of a campus or inside of a building. Other subjects, who simply watched a video or looked at photographs of the same tour, did not.
Their second study tried something different. They intentionally tried to induce a feeling of dread among undergrads by telling them they’d have to write a report and talk about their experience after it was over. This is something they didn’t tell a second group, which experienced the tour while sitting.
The participants who did the walking tour actually expected their mood to be worse at the end of the tour. Instead, they actually maintained a positive mood. In contrast, those who did the tour while sitting (and remember they weren’t told they’d have to write about or discuss) actually did report drop in positive emotions.
The third and final experiment had three different conditions tested, all while watching a video. One group watched it while sitting on a treadmill, a second while standing on a treadmill, and the third group viewed it while walking.
The group which reported the biggest scores in positive emotions?
The one that saw the video while walking.
Walking May Lift Your Mood More Than You Expect
Sometimes it can be hard to get yourself motivated to move. After a long day of work, you may be drained and feel like just watching your favorite show.
The unfortunate part about that is many of our jobs already have us sitting for hours on end. At the end of the day, it can be hard to get up the energy to go do anything. Let alone go for a walk.
But here’s the advice of the researchers:
People may underestimate the extent to which just getting off their couch and going for a walk will benefit their mood as they focus on momentarily perceived barriers rather than eventual mood benefits.
While it may not seem beneficial at the time, you may be surprised at how much walking can boost your mood, and how energizing it is.
Even if you don’t really expect it to.