It’s no secret that our world looks a lot different today than it did just a few months ago. We’re all adjusting to this new normal of social distancing in our own ways. Practices like working from home, wearing face masks and staying six feet away from others have become common. While we employ these strategies to protect our physical health, it’s equally important to consider mental health.
Social distancing for many can be incredibly stressful. As humans, we’re made for social interaction. Studies have shown, time and time again, that we are happier and healthier when we maintain good relationships with friends and family. We can still share a phone call, text chat or video connection, but after a while these interactions can begin to feel hollow. Add in the stress of furloughed jobs and lost wages, kids stuck at home climbing the walls and general uncertainty about the future. It’s a recipe for stress and anxiety.
Fortunately, there’s an answer that can help alleviate cabin fever, give us a mental boost, and improve our physical health too. “Sanity walks” have become a great way to get outside, get moving and lift our moods too. But what are they?
Simply put, when you’re tired of staring at the same walls for days on end, taking a simple walk can provide a breath of fresh air, literally. Of course, it’s still important to practice social distancing while we walk, so don’t meet up with all of the neighbors on your block for a group stroll. Instead, take some time alone to really explore your surroundings. Bring along your favorite music via earbuds. Maybe even include the dog if that’s not likely to add stress to your outing.
How can a simple walk help? Here are some of the top benefits of taking a sanity walk while social distancing.
If you’re like many, you’re probably spending a lot of time on the couch these days. But we all know that sitting too much is bad for your waistline. Most probably also understand that it’s bad for your heart too. But today there’s growing evidence that it’s also associated with increased risk of diabetes and cancer. It’s even been associated with declining brain health, specifically in areas related to memory.
The cure? Get up and get moving, regularly. Rather than just moving around in one long session like an after-dinner stroll through the neighborhood, it may be better to take several short walks throughout the day. However you choose to schedule your walks, moving is almost certainly better for you than sitting. In fact, simply taking regular walks has been linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
A Change in Scenery
By now, you’re probably sick of the view from your living room or home office. There’s no question, a quick change of scenery is vital to your mental health. But more than just a cure for cabin fever, this can have long-reaching positive effects.
A few years ago, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that just 40 seconds of viewing an image of a flowering meadow green roof was beneficial to cognitive functioning. And we also know that a quick change in scenery can often be enough to get creative juices flowing. In fact, a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that taking a walk can boost creativity by 60 percent.
We hear a lot about the dangers of sun exposure, and skin cancer is certainly no joke. But there’s another side of sunshine and we may have lost touch with its benefits in the midst of our busy lives. Even if it’s cloudy outside, a little sun peeking through can be enough to boost your mood.
Sunlight exposure can actually lead to better mental health. Scientists believe that sun exposure leads to higher serotonin levels. This is associated with a lower risk of major depression with seasonal pattern, aka seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Exposure to sunlight also leads to more Vitamin D in your system. In fact, you could gain as much as 50,000 IUs of vitamin D in a single 30 minute period. This leads to stronger bones and improved immune response.
The Bottom Line
Taking a walk has a number of benefits, and anything that gets us outside safely during this pandemic is a good thing. With so many benefits, a simple walk could be a real lifesaver. So why not make daily walks a part of your routine?
In the midst of COVID-19, DispatchHealth is here to help our communities. If you feel sick or injured and need prompt medical care, don’t risk a trip to the emergency room. Instead, order healthcare delivery and we’ll send a medical team to your home ASAP. We can treat all sorts of conditions and concerns, including most of what your local ER treats.
To learn more, visit dispatchhealth.com/covid-19.