Walking has a healing effect: this is how you can process a trauma

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Walking is an easy way to process minor and major traumas. And everyone can do it! Hiking coach and ex-top athlete Sandra Voetelink is convinced of this. “When you walk, you experience that the problem becomes lighter. It is healing.” She shares a step-by-step plan with you, so you can get started right away.

Your body is a smart entity that can heal itself. Only we have forgotten this.

Small walk, big effect

EMDR is a well-known and widely used form of therapy that revolves around processing traumaWalking can have the same effect! Most people enjoy walking. It’s easy and you can do it anywhere. But did you know that it also has a healing effect? You already experience this when you regularly walk 3 to 5 kilometers: in the city, the park or nature. Of course, walking in nature has its advantages.

Shinrin Yoku: Bathing in the Forest

Nature has a strong healing power. The energy you feel from the sea, the dunes or the forest… When you walk barefoot, you are directly connected to the energy of the earth. You ground, which has an extra positive effect on your health.

There are many forest therapists in Japan. They practice Shinrin yoku , which literally means ‘forest bathing’. It is a nature therapy where you intensively use your senses. You walk slowly, take a deep breath and quietly take in the green surroundings. You smell, look, listen, feel. The cells that play a major role in your immune system are positively activated by forest baths. This effect remains visible in your blood for up to seven days!

A conversation with yourself

I myself also experience the positive effect of walking. When I’m worried about something, I often go for a walk. After about half an hour I calm down and have often dealt with the problem. Sometimes I talk to myself while walking. The advantage of talking out loud is that you get out of your head. You name the problem, so you don’t keep going round in circles. While walking you gain insight, because being physically active stimulates the processing process. This is confirmed by the book ‘Get rid of your worries’ by Thom Hartman. He explains why walking is so good for us and what it does to us exactly. I give a brief summary of his story.

Your self-healing ability

Your body is a smart entity that can heal itself. Only we have forgotten this. We regularly put our health in the hands of doctors. Of course that is often fine, but let’s also consider what we can do ourselves. Autonomy, i.e. taking responsibility for yourself, is an important step in a healing process.

Emotional healing is about healing trauma, minor or major, that everyone experiences in their life. Many researchers assume that most events are processed during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement, our eyes move quickly back and forth). So also painful experiences. When an event is too intense, the trauma is buried in our subconscious. Sigmund Freud calls this ‘repression’. If a similar situation arises later, you react as if danger were imminent. Including the associated feelings and physiological response of your body. In this way, events from your childhood can carry over into your adult life. Without you being aware of it.

Bringing thinking and feeling together

Then we come to a mechanism that is essential: the so-called rhythmic bilateral stimulation of the body. This alternating movement causes nerve impulses to cross back and forth from the left to the right hemisphere of the brain at a specific speed and frequency. This connects the thinking functions of the left hemisphere with the feeling functions of the right hemisphere and the brainstem. This integration is necessary to be able to heal a trauma emotionally and spiritually. Several therapies are based on this mechanism, such as EMDR and EFT.to walk

Known therapies: EMDR and EFT

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy stimulates the left and right hemispheres of the brain to heal trauma. The EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) method does this too, but in a different way. A practitioner or yourself taps left and right on specific meridian points on your body. It is also known as ’emotional acupuncture’. Walking, on the other hand, is even easier and free. And you also get the energy of nature as a gift.

How does it work?

Walking is therefore a wonderful way to process trauma. Anyone can do it. You can go out alone or with a friend. Another option is that you walk with a coach. Do what suits you.

Step-by-step plan: this is how you go for a healing walk!

  • Define the problem, the trauma. It can be big or small.
  • Let the story come out. What thoughts appear? And what feelings? You can give a rating to the severity of the problem.
  • Go for a walk with the problem: with the image, the thoughts and feelings about it. Walk for at least three quarters of an hour. Keep going, don’t stop and don’t listen to music. Use the correct cross barrel. So you walk with relaxed arms that you gently swing back and forth. Don’t get too worked up about it, it will come naturally.
  • Notice how the problem changes. Does the story fade? Do you get insights? Can you give the incident a place?
  • Anchor the new condition.

You don’t have to do more! While walking you experience that the problem becomes lighter. Other thoughts come to mind. The problem eventually disappears, usually after about 30 minutes. This of course depends on the severity of the trauma. If you need more time, you can simply hit the road again the next day.

Are you looking for more balance in your life? Do you keep running into the same patterns? Do you want to know what steps you can take to get out of this? Then walking coaching from Sandra Voetelink is for you. It literally and figuratively moves you.


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