Therapeutic Benefits of Walking

Walking is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. It activates deep biological processes for health, balance, and wellbeing, supporting both physical and mental health. Our bodies are designed to walk as our main mode of getting from one place to another, and many of our biological systems work best when we are in motion.

When we go for a walk, our circulation increases, which nourishes our whole body with blood and oxygen. This nourishment provides what our tissues need to repair themselves, often solving minor issues before we even notice them.

Walking also helps calm the mind and reduce the effects of stress. The rhythm of walking helps us enter a light meditative state, which then regulates breathing, lowers stress hormones, and can bring a sense of peace and calm.

The actual act of putting one foot in front of the other keeps our bodies and minds in conversation with each other. The motion of it involves complex interactions between muscles, bones, and connective tissues. Walking helps tune up those interactions, and increase coordination in general.

Going outside to walk increases all these benefits by adding fresh air and uneven ground. The fresh air, open space, and interactions with nature all help to boost the immune system and regulate sensory processing, and may offer a sense of peacefulness. Uneven ground keeps our coordination and stabilization systems active, reducing the likelihood of falling and helping improve joint health.

Going for a walk is one of the most fundamental self-care practices we can do. It directly supports comprehensive mental and physical health, which in turn increases our internal feelings of vitality and our overall sense of wellbeing.

Keeping your Immune System Strong

Our immune systems are crucial to staying healthy and feeling good, and they can be especially challenged when the weather changes. Bouncing temperatures and frequent rain can make us more vulnerable to viruses. Here are ways to support our immune systems to keep us healthy.

Treat Stress

When we feel high stress or chronic stress, it makes it hard to fend off viruses. Stress diverts resources away from immune function as the body decides that it needs to survive the immediate crisis that is causing stress first, and then it will worry about germs. Lowering cortisol and other stress hormone levels helps the immune system come back up to speed. Bodywork, acupuncture, and restorative classes are all great ways to reduce stress in the body.

Move Lymph

Our lymph system moves pathogens and other waste out of our bodies, and helps spread white blood cells throughout the system. Bodywork is especially helpful for moving lymph through the body, bringing new nutrients into tissues and supporting immune function. Movement classes and going for walks also help lymph circulate for healthy immune function.

Nourish Yourself

A lot of immune function is rooted in the gut and the digestive system. Using nutrients like vitamin C to boost the body in the moment can be helpful. It is also important to work on your digestive health overall, before you feel like your body is trying to fight something off. Acupuncture can help regulate digestive function, and nutrition counseling can help you address gut inflammation, dietary imbalances, and food issues.

When we support our immune systems so that they can function well, we are less likely to get sick from viruses. By managing our stress levels, keeping our lymph system flowing, and nourishing our digestive and other health, we can keep our immune system strong and balanced.  

Movement that Restores Wellbeing

Our bodies are made to move! Deep biological processes in the organs, tissues, and nervous system are based on a foundation of physical movement and activity. This is why therapeutic movement can have such profound health and healing effects; the right kinds of movement can restore function and health at their root.

Therapeutic Movement classes like we offer at Ha.Lé are designed to work for a wide range of bodies, ages, and experience levels. They help create health, reduce stress, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. On a physical level, they:

  • Increase circulation
  • Increase bone density
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Release tension
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve balance

Movement classes also provide significant mental health support by increasing mental clarity, reducing anxiety, and stabilizing mood. We can then further strengthen the mind-body connection by adding mindfulness practices and body awareness in order to boost the stress and pain management benefits. Being in class also activates social wiring and mirror neurons in the brain, deepening your practice through being in community.

One of the most effective ways to support your health and feel better in your body and mind is to set aside time for therapeutic movement classes. It creates a space dedicated to caring for yourself, and activates deep natural processes of health.

Bodywork for Stress

Bodywork and massage are one of the most well known treatments for stress. When we are stressed out, our muscles tighten, our breathing gets shallow, we have trouble concentrating, and it can impact our sleep. We can feel this tension and dysregulation in our bodies.

Receiving bodywork helps reset these stress symptoms, but how does it work its magic? It all begins with the parasympathetic nervous system. Our bodies react to stress by activating the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight or flight mode. The parasympathetic system turns off fight or flight and moves us to rest and digest mode. Bodywork is a very effective way to activate the parasympathetic system and turn off the alarms of stress.

Stress tightens muscles, getting them ready to fight off lions. Since there usually aren’t any real lions to fight, we can end up carrying around a tremendous amount muscle tension. Bodywork works directly with this tension to reset the state of the muscle. This helps cue the nervous system to reset as well, so that tension releases both from outside stimulation and internal cues.

Stress is also a biochemical event in the body, releasing cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones. Bodywork is effective for lowering the stress hormone levels of the body. This in turn promotes more restful sleep, regulates digestion, and even helps regulate mood for a deeper sense of wellbeing.

Bodywork is an effective treatment for stress because it helps reset the nervous system and turn off the biochemical alarms. It helps activate the body’s own ability to recover and heal by improving blood and nutrient flow, reducing tension, and releasing endorphins. This in turn helps you sleep and feel better.

Movement Classes to Reduce Stress

When we feel stress, it is a whole body event. Moving our bodies, dropping in to our breath, and being more fully present helps us shift the state of our nervous system. It supports our ability to move out of crisis mode and toward health and wellbeing.

Our stress hormones are designed to flood our bodies with the extra boost we need to escape lions, tigers, and bears. This is great when we need it, but modern stress does not involve a lot of literal running for our lives. Instead, we often end up stuck in a chronic stress state, where our body thinks that we are always in mortal danger and is constantly sounding alarms. This impairs our ability to repair, restore, and nourish our health.

Movement classes create a dedicated time and space to speak to our stress alarms and give them permission to quiet down. When we drop in to our bodies, it brings us to the present moment and helps turn our attention away from thoughts of the future and past. In this moment, we have breath. We have a heartbeat. There are parts of our bodies that ask for our attention, like sore knees, tight shoulders, or clenched jaws. We can greet them and allow them to move back toward balance.

Being in class also works with our natural neurobiology to reduce stress. It helps to rewire the reactions of our nervous systems away from crisis mode, increasing our ability to handle a stressful situation and recover. It also engages mirror neurons in the brain, amplifying the effect of our practice. When we practice self-care and therapeutic movement with others in a class setting, our brains see other people doing what we are doing, and it increases its effectiveness within our own systems.

Movement classes help manage stress by releasing muscle tension, resetting the nervous system, and increasing our resiliency in the face of difficult situations. Where stress is our body trying to help us survive, we can utilize movement and breath to help ourselves recover and thrive.

Restoring Joy to Generosity

The stress of the holiday season can reduce the joy we feel when we are giving and generous, and can deplete our capacity to give. We can restore our joy and activate the proven health benefits of practicing generosity through connecting with other people and practicing empathy.

Managing stress is key to restoring joy! Because the holiday season is often a time of family gatherings and social togetherness, it can bring up old hurts and emotions. Talking through your feelings with a counselor can help clear the air and restore your emotional equilibrium. Counseling can also help address climbing anxiety levels and work through feelings of depression. Creating time to take care of your emotional self can be a very effective way to address the increasing stress of this time of year, since unacknowledged emotions, unmet expectations, and mood dysregulation can all translate into general feelings of high stress.

When we are able to manage our stress levels, it can greatly increase our capacity to give and to feel generous. This in turn has proven health benefits, as it activates positive feedback loops in the brain. This positive feedback has been shown to increase longevity and improve heart health. It also releases oxytocin, the hormone that helps you feel deep wellbeing through trust and happiness.

Another way to increase our joy and capacity for generosity is to practice mindfulness. When we give to others, no matter the size of the gift, we can be mindful of how that gift makes them feel, and allow ourselves to connect to their feelings. By mindfully practicing empathy, we are able to increase everyone’s joy!

Treating stress through self-care, counseling, and mindfulness replenishes our resources for connection with others. We are then able to feel more of the joy that comes from being generous, filling our own hearts and the hearts of those around us.

Acupuncture for Stress

Acupuncture works like physical therapy for the nervous system, which makes it an effective treatment to reduce the effects of stress on the body. When we feel threatened, the nervous system responds with a cascade of biological changes, getting us ready to fight off bears and run away from lions. However, most of the threats we face in daily life are mental and emotional stressors, not bears and lions. Acupuncture is able to calm and regulate these stress responses in the body, which can improve long term health and wellbeing.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to create positive changes in central nervous function. The central nervous system is what governs our fight or flight responses (sympathetic nervous system) and our rest and digest responses (parasympathetic nervous system). By helping to regulate the alarms of stress, acupuncture is able to help shift nervous function away from crisis and back toward rest and healing.

Through adjusting these stress responses in the nervous system, acupuncture is able to more fully activate the Central Autonomous Network, which is the part of the brain that lives in the present and handles working memory and sensory input. In other words, it helps bring us back to ourselves and cultivate awareness of present moment.

The effects of acupuncture on stress last for longer than the acupuncture session itself. Sessions are a generally relaxing and restorative experience, and the effects of a series of treatments for stress have been shown to last for months afterward. Basically, acupuncture is able to help train the nervous system how to better respond to stress.

Acupuncture is an effective way to manage stress by toning and regulating the nervous system. It addresses the imbalances caused by both acute and chronic stress, helping to move the body and mind out of crisis mode. This creates space and energy for rest, restoration, and health.

Bodywork Restores Your Peace

Bodywork and massage improve our mental health as well as our physical health. Regular sessions have been shown to improve mood after as little as 15 min, and can help treat stress, anxiety, and depression.

The mental health benefits begin with relaxation and sense of peace. From the first moments of your session, your body begins to signal your mind that you are now warm and safe. This allows the nervous system to begin to switch off the alarms of stress. Your breath deepens, heart rate slows, and adrenaline and cortisol levels drop.

When you receive regular bodywork, your body and mind learn how to make these adjustments more easily, so that just walking into the treatment space can begin a cascade of positive emotions and biological responses. This allows treatments to build on each other, which can be especially helpful when treating depression and anxiety. Bodywork releases endorphins like serotonin and dopamine, which in turn helps to improve and regulate mood.

Bodywork utilizes the combination of the healing power of touch with the safety and warmth of an excellent therapist, creating space for emotional healing as well as physical health. It is a wonderful treatment for managing stress, regulating mood, and improving your overall sense of wellbeing.

The Importance of Breath

The breath is one of our most important healing tools, and possibly one of the most overlooked. Breathing is something we do all day, every day, usually without conscious thought. Because it is so constant, it disappears into the background of our body awareness. When we consciously think about and change the breath, we are able to speak to the body in very profound ways.

The breath is one of the easiest bridges between the parts of our bodies that we can control and the bodily processes that are not conscious. It is a biological process that naturally falls into both categories, and so becomes a way for our mind to speak to our body directly.

Deep breathing: When we take a deep breath, it stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that calms the body, helping us come out of a state of stress and distress, and move toward rest, restoration, and healing. Deep breathing helps reduce emotional distress and anxiety because it changes how those feelings are felt in the physical body. It can also help bring a sense of calm centeredness and overall wellbeing.

Breath awareness: Turning our attention to the breath is a fundamental mindfulness practice. When we pay attention to the flow of air in and out of our bodies, it cues the mind to tune into the present moment. This allows us to drop the anxiety and stress that comes with thinking about the past and future, and brings us more fully present to the physical reality of being alive. When we practice mindfulness like this, it can rewire neural pathways in the brain to reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and stress.

Breath in the body: The breath is also a physical event in the body, engaging a complex array of muscles and tissues and massaging the internal organs. Injuries, surgeries, and chronic stress can change the way the body breathes, which in turn can cause chronic tension and pain. Linking movement with the breath can help release this muscle tension and reset neuromuscular patterns. There are also breath awareness and breathing techniques that can help address structural issues like pain in the low back, pelvis, and neck and shoulders.

The breath is a powerful healing tool that allows us to speak to parts of the body that we cannot reach with the mind alone. By changing how we breathe and how we pay attention to our breath, we are able to counter the effects of chronic stress, reduce anxiety, release muscle tension, treat pain, and bring a sense of overall wellbeing.

Natural Treatments for Depression and Anxiety

Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are caused by complex interactions of brain chemistry, stress hormones, genetics, and other factors. The CDC recommends a collaborative approach to treatment, including primary care providers, mental health specialists, and other providers. The integrative therapies at Ha.Lé offer broad support for the body and mind, which helps regulate mood and easily complements other medical care.

Ha.Lé Counseling and Integrative Counseling provide compassionate one on one assessment and support for mood disorders. These sessions can be done in a private office, or while walking together on quiet residential streets in our neighborhood. This is called a Walk and Talk, and it allows the body and mind to process while in motion, which can be especially helpful for some people. Another option is Mindfulness Counseling, which provides specific tools for cultivating awareness and perspective and helps reduce distress across a wide range of situations.

More body-focused treatments can also profoundly support mental health. Bodywork and massage lower stress hormones by up to 50%, and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are mood stabilizers. Sessions provide safe, nurturing touch, which makes space for you to relax, refocus, and find clarity. The effects are also cumulative. The first session can significantly reduce anxiety, and a series of sessions can provide reductions that are twice as large.

Acupuncture is a treatment that works to rebalance the systems of the body, and mood disorders are usually symptoms of a deep and/or complex imbalance. It is proven to reduce stress hormones and boost mood stabilizers, and sessions can have a more immediate effect than many medications.

Classes for therapeutic movement and self-care help to release endorphins, improve the connection between the body and mind, and lower stress hormones. They can also address the ways in which mood disorders can cause the body to curl forward in distress. Uncurling then allows the body to take deeper breaths, find its own internal support system, and feel energized.

Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are complex issues that affect the whole body and mind. Treatment that addresses whole system imbalances and brings the body back into a state of rest and healing can help stabilize mood and promote a general sense of wellbeing.