Breakup? Feeling confused, stuck, or just plain sad? Walking outdoors may be the game changer for your breakup healing
It’s probably not new information to you that exercise has proven mental health benefits, all of which will help you right now, regardless of the reasons for your recent breakup. Some of these benefits include:
- Increased self-confidence
- Improved mood
- Decreased levels of stress
- Increased stamina and energy
- Better sleep
- Mental clarity
- Reduced depression and anxiety
How does it all work?
Breakups can cause our systems to really get out of whack quickly. From cascading emotions, tears, lack of sleep, and the inevitable mental preoccupation, the end of a relationship can leave the mind and body feeling exhausted and run down. Exercise is known to quickly produce the hormones you need to bounce back: serotonin and dopamine. A nice stroll is guaranteed to give you at least a temporary boost, and won’t leave you with a hangover.
Besides the initial release of hormones, extra movement is going to help you sleep better, which will help with those crazy periods of monkey mind that can follow a break-up (not to mention helping to prevent those late-night texts to the ex!
Nature and mental health
Now let’s talk about the healing powers of good ‘ol Mother Earth. For starters, being in nature helps to stay in the present moment, which is extremely difficult to do when processing a breakup. Practicing staying in the moment has long-term benefits including reduced stress and anxiety. As I mentioned, exercise itself reduces stress, so this “double whammy” approach is sure to be effective for most people.
Many people are highly sensitive to environmental factors, especially when feeling depressed or overwhelmed. This is one reason that “green exercise” has become so sought after, as it allows the participant to set aside the troubles of life more than exercising at home or at a traditional gym.
It has also been shown that people who walk outdoors do so at a faster pace but report feeling less exerted. This allows one to also increase the health benefits of walking. And why not? After all, who wants weight gain after a breakup?
Are you feeling motivated to get up and get outside yet?
How to do it
In the initial weeks after a break-up, I recommend trying to fit in 2-3 leisurely walks outside during the week and an extra long walk on the weekends.
Want to bring a buddy? Whether you go solo or with a friend is up to you and both have their unique benefits. Being around friends and having positive company can be so comforting after a breakup. Being outside and doing something healthy is a nice way to bond with a friend. This may be especially important after the end of a relationship and if you let some of your friendships go a bit by the wayside.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for being alone and able to process things as you receive the mental and healthy benefits. Processing while moving the body is a VERY powerful way to move certain things through and out of the mind. Plus, now that you’re single it’s time to get used to not waiting around for anyone or anything to make plans!
More on processing
Speaking of processing, it is perfectly natural for thoughts to begin to wander when you leave the house and your responsibilities for a while during a walk. There are some pros and cons to leaning into this.
One con is that you may already be struggling with having the breakup on your mind constantly. The stressful cycle of repeated, circling, ongoing rumination can lead some people to wind up feeling very stuck after a while and unable to see options and ways to heal. Stopping this cycle and allowing your mind some relief can create a snowball effect that increases your recovery.
After a breakup, it is important to create new body memories related to so many things. One of these is to create a body memory of enjoying your surroundings without thinking about your ex. A walk is the perfect healthy distraction for creating this dynamic.
Try using your walks to be a break from your grief. This is best achieved by listening to a book or podcast. I suggest using a series that keeps you engaged and coming back to find out what happens next (true crime, anyone?).
And than there are the pros…There is important processing that is essential after the end of a relationship. If you feel mentally prepared for this, using your walks may allow you to process while not getting too “worked up.”
How disciplined do you think you can be about your mental processing? If that is your objective for your walks, can you limit the time you dwell on what went down to the walk? Or set a timer to help you create a “container” around the ruminating? Learning to make the most out of this therapeutic time and then set things aside may also help you to turn a corner with beating your breakup.
Now get those earbuds and get out there!