Have you ever stopped to consider what makes you happy? Like really happy? And have you set out to find that happy only to discover the grass isn’t as green as you hoped it would be? Despite our best intentions, we can easily get lost in the whirlwind of our day-to-day lives and miss the path to happiness, or even strive for the wrong things that don’t actually make us happy.
In my bathroom, there’s a sign that says “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.” And one of those little things, that perhaps may seem too easy, is the power of walking. You heard us right. Walking can actually make you happier. And here are nine reasons why.
- Walking Hacks Our Happiness Hormones: There are what we call “happiness hormones” coursing through our bodies including dopamine, our chemical reward system, serotonin, which contributes to our feelings of happiness and our sense of well-being, endorphins that can make us feel downright euphoric, and oxytocin, which drives our desire for kinship and collaboration. This cocktail of hormones gets fired up when you take a walk. Yep, more walking, more happiness hormones. Simple as that.
- Walking Reduces Our Stress: Many of us are walking around in an almost constant state of stress with heightened levels of cortisol pumping inside us which can contribute to anxiety, depression, weight gain, irritability and even insomnia. But walking just 20 minutes—especially outdoors in nature—significantly reduces cortisol levels and tamps down your stress response. And less stress—that’s right—leads to more happy.
- Walking Helps Us Combat Depression: According to the World Health Organization, 5% of adults suffer from depression, and knowing how to get the help you need is crucial. Though seeking the advice of a doctor is always a good idea, studies are now showing that lessening depression can be found through moderate-intensity exercise, like a brisk walk. In fact, these studies are showing that physical activity can be a more effective form of treatment than medication. Now that’s a reason to do a happy dance!
- Walking Helps Us Process Hard Things: A worried mind and difficult situation can often be hard to work through, but walking can actually serve as a form of meditation, giving you the time and space to process your thoughts and settle your mind. It’s also a great way to have heart-to-heart conversations—and has even shown to help teenagers open up—as the increased oxygen and blood flow helps you communicate more clearly and listen more carefully. Less worry and more understanding results in, you guessed it, more happiness!
- Walking Increases Our Energy: Newton’s first law of motion that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion may shed some light on why walking helps you feel more energized. The act of walking fires up the body’s circulation, bringing blood flow, oxygen and glucose to all of your muscles and organs—including your brain. The net result is more energy. In fact, one study showed that a walk is as powerful an energy booster as a shot of espresso. And more energy leads to more opportunities to get happy!
- Walking Gives Us Mental Clarity: When you’re feeling like your mind is all over the place, the act of your feet hitting the ground stimulates blood flow, sending oxygen to your brain, which in turn gives you the ability to focus better. The increase in connectivity and coordination of important brain networks improves your cognitive function—your thinking skills. More focus leads to more productivity and a sense of accomplishment, which leads to a happier mood!
- Walking Helps Us Sleep Better: We’ve all been around a cranky toddler who missed his nap, and you just might find yourself behaving the same when you’re short on sleep. But walking can actually help make sure you’re getting the rest you need. Because walking helps with your mood, shutting down for the night with a calm and contented mind certainly makes it easier to fall and stay asleep. Moreover, regular walking helps your body know when it’s time to be active, and when it's time to settle in for rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the rise in body temperature when you walk sends a signal to our brain to decrease our body temperature later in the day, promoting sleep. Buh-bye, cranky toddler. Hello to a rested and happy you!
- Walking Gives Us a Sense of Accomplishment: It feels good to give yourself a pat on the back, and getting out for a walk and moving toward a better you gives you just the reason to do that! As human beings, we are wired to crave and love accomplishment. Completing a walk gives you a sense of satisfaction, especially when you track your walks and see those miles add up. Here’s to a happy high five!
- Walking Helps Us Look for Awe: It’s easy to miss the beauty around us as we travel the same streets, see the same people, and do the same activities day after day. But if you really stop to look for the awe, you may just realize how much there is for which to be grateful. Awe has the power to both make us feel small in the grand scheme of the universe, while at the same time, helping us feel connected to something larger than ourselves. This paradox is a cornerstone of feelings of awe. People who experience awe demonstrate lower levels of stress, reduced inflammation and increased joy. They tend to be more curious, open to new ideas and engaged with others and with the world around them. Awe can decrease our attachment to material things, expand our perception of time and make life feel more satisfying.
So next time you’re looking for a boost in your mood, consider a Jetti Walk. We’re pretty sure that no matter how you’re feeling when you start out, you’ll end up smiling a little bigger and feeling a whole lot happier.