Your Mood-Lifting Program

Any kind of walking will do — a brisk 10-minute stroll a few times a day or a good 1 1/2 miles a day to make your requisite 11 miles a week. But you need to walk with the correct posture and at the correct pace.

Dr. Munsell has designed a technique to help you guide your body into a more erect, yet relaxed, posture. It discourages you from looking down, the posture you may adopt when you’re feeling down. She also suggests walking with a buddy — human or canine — to help get you out walking when you don’t feel up to it.

Technique: The short shirt-pull

Cross your arms at the wrists as if to pull a shirt off over your head. Lift your face into a smile as you inhale, fully stretching your arms overhead. Lengthen your torso as you reach toward the sky. Exhale, and return your arms to your sides while continuing to grow taller through your spine. Imagine that you are lifting your head into a sparkling crown. Repeat.

As you lower your arms, drop your shoulders like a shirt resting on a hanger. Repeat several more times, imagining that you are pulling off your old body, revealing a lighter, brighter you. Resist the urge to arch your back. Keep your head level and scanning the road ahead, the way you would while driving a car.

Frequency. Complete two or three short shirt-pulls every few minutes during your regular walking workout (6 to 10 in a 15-minute walk).

Your Pace

Dr. Abbott, who uses walking as therapy with her patients, says that different paces are useful for working through different aspects of what’s troubling you. Use the pace that best matches your desired result:

  • Slow. “At a slow pace, people’s thoughts tend to go inward,” says Dr. Abbott. Use a slow walk to get in touch with your thoughts and feelings.
  • Moderate. “A moderate pace provides a necessary transition for shifting from emotional self-focus to taking action,” she says. Use this pace to start thinking about doing something about your problem.
  • Energetic/brisk. This is definitely your “take action” walk, says Dr. Abbott. “In an energetic walking workout, we think about what to do and how to do it.”

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