There’s no shortage of research to support walking as the so-called perfect exercise; human beings are, after all, designed to walk! Walking is beneficial for our muscles, bones, circulation… even our mood and sleep patterns are improved by walking. (If only we could put a brisk 20-minute walk into a spray bottle to apply to all of life’s problems, much as the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding uses his Windex….)
So: walking = better health and greater happiness. This isn’t new news. What is new, though, is a new research on how purposefully walking in a “happy” or “depressed” manner may influence mood. Researchers designed a study utilizing already-proven biases about the connection between mood and memory. People in a happier state are more likely to remember positive information, while those in a more negative state are more likely to remember negative information. Lifehacker India describes the findings:
It was found that the respondents who had adopted the happy, confident gait and stance remembered more of the positive words from the list while those whose walking style had reflected depression and dejection, recalled more negative emotions from the selection of words that were read out.
Their findings, therefore, imply that one’s walking style has the potential to impact one’s mind – where one is more likely to process and retain information that matches how one is feeling.
“It is not surprising that our mood, the way we feel, affects how we walk, but we wanted to see whether the way we move also affects how we feel,” elaborates Nikolaus Troje, professor, Queen’s University, Canada as well as the co-author of the research paper.
Talk about a mind-body connection—the implications here for affecting mood via the body are huge. If just walking in a depressed way can make you feel worse, and walking “like a happy person” can pick you up… with the accompanying memory changes the difference in mood can bring… well, then, maybe that whole fake-it-’til-you-make-it idea applies to more than we thought. Sure, even fake smiling is good for you, but what about thinking about how you sit, stand, and—yes—walk?
Food for thought. Or maybe something to consider on your next walk.