If you suffer from anxiety, you’re not alone — according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 18.1% of adults in the United States have it, too. And if you’re looking for new ways to cope, a new study has revealed that something called “mindful movement” could help reduce your anxiety and stress levels, and not only is it easy, but it’s a tool you can whip out anywhere, anytime.
According to Science Daily, a new study came out this summer that said taking a walk where you’re zeroing in on your physical surroundings and your breathing can help decrease your anxiety, especially when you’re in the middle of a busy or stressful day. So not only is walking good for you physically but mentally, it could seriously help you calm down — as long as you do it the right way.
Here’s everything you need to know:
3. The study discovered that mindfulness is key
In the study, which consisted of students from Penn State, researchers discovered that the students reported feeling less stressed when they were moving around, and they felt even better when they were intentional about their movement. Rather than letting their minds wander, focusing on the world around them and their own breathing and movements yielded the best results. And being that taking a quick walk to regroup is something that most of us can find the time to fit into our days, making this a part of your regular routine might be worth the improvement to your mental health.
Researcher Chih-Hsiang Yang, who goes by Jason, said that although it can be hard to get people to change their routine, even if they’ll feel better because of it, this is just one small thing you can do that can pay off big time.
“It can be difficult to ask people to spend a lot of time doing moderate or vigorous activity by going to the gym or out for a run, especially if they feel stressed,” he said. “But if they don’t need to change their everyday behavior, and can instead try to change their state of mind by becoming more mindful, they can probably see this beneficial effect. You don’t need to exert a lot of extra effort in order to improve your wellbeing by being more mindful while you’re moving around.”
2. Learning mindfulness as a skill could change everything for you
Although the study found that being active in any capacity helped reduce stress, what really was a game changer was seeing the students become more mindful and watching their anxiety drop from there.
“Developing the ability to shift into these states of mindfulness as needed may be valuable for improving self-regulation and well-being,” David Conry, another Penn State researcher who worked on the project, said.
It’s pretty cool that the study focused on college students because if you’ve ever been in college, you know that those years can end up being some of the most stressful, especially at times when finals are right around the corner. And the younger you develop these skills, the better off you’ll be for the rest of your life. Because honestly, who wants to spend more time than they have to feeling anxious?
1. How do you become more mindful?
It can be really hard to block everything out — especially your own thoughts at a time when you’re stressed out or have a lot on your plate. But you’ll be able to tackle your long to-do list a lot more easily if you’re able to center yourself first. According to Psych Central, there are a few things you can do to develop this skill, including practicing your mindfulness in short bursts of time, especially right when you wake up, allowing your mind to wander when it wants to, and even learning to meditate.
With a little bit of practice, being mindful in your downtime — and while talking those stress-relieving walks — will become second nature. No matter how hectic your day might be, it’s always worth it to take a few minutes to go outside, walk around, and breathe in some fresh air while you ground your mind and body to what’s in your immediate surrounding. Your stress levels will drop, and your brain will thank you!