Every Tuesday, in Toronto, a group of people gather in the front steps of an old building. They have sturdy shoes are dressed for the weather. If someone is glancing at their watch, it is because they need to see if it is time to start. No electronic gears are allowed. They smile and greet each other. Some chat. Others just stand aside. They are people from all areas of life- parents, teachers, students, and working people. When it is time, they start the walk.
Walk! Yes, walk. The group goes through the “Mood Route.” The route takes the group through nature trails, parks, and even greenhouses. For the next 30 to 60 minutes, the group walks their chosen path. Be sure to dress for the weather, the walk happens no matter what the weather looks outside. The primary reason the mood route was created is to reduce stress. The very nature of the modern lifestyle is stressful and unnatural.
We sit for hours without a break. We eat and drink where we sit. We are continually watching or interacting with devices that emit radiation and light. This has also caused isolation and disengagement with life. People are being distracted with multiple sensory images and sounds that linger after the digital interactions. The digital spaces have invaded the need for social interactions reducing the input to a minimum or in some cases, completely broken down.
Watch this short video showing the effects of distancing ourselves from nature.
Isolation and the need to be on constant run causes stress to human beings. Especially for students, who are often required to change tasks, and distracted with new information. The cognitive overload and the feeling of ‘brain dead,’ simply melts with a brief immersion in nature. A brisk nature walk revitalizes students who are stressed, lonely, or exhausted. The stroll on the trail makes them feel connected with nature. A deep connection makes a difference.
Researchers are studying how the simple walk in nature can change the mood. Walking in nature for 20 to 30 minutes or just spending time in nature, will efficiently lower the production of cortisol, a hormone produced during stress. For this effect to be visible, the walk should be free of other distractions. For example, listening to music or playing games on a cellphone while engaging with nature will not work. Being distraction-free and connecting with nature is critical for reducing stress.
Students engaging in the mindful walk have reported cognizing a different perspective. They could connect with something larger and more significant than themselves and their immediate problems. That connection enabled them to see many different views or activities happening in nature. Surrounded by natural activities of the birds, animals, or of trees, flowers, and plants swaying in the breeze, students have matured in their social ways enabling them to work as a team, build social skills, increase their confidence, take more initiatives, and develop their leadership skills.
No matter what your mood is, immersion in nature is an ideal solution. It not only gets you moving, which is good for the body but also heals you from within. Get your walking shoes and try mood walk today!